Microsoft Corporation

07/26/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/26/2021 09:42

Wheels up: Accessible cockpit for Flight Simulator takes wing

On his 12th birthday, he and his father survived a car accident that took the lives of his mother and sister. Etai suffered head injuries and his left leg had to be amputated. Since then, he has been receiving care at ALYN Hospital.

He misses home, although it is not certain when or if he will return to it. But he flew over it recently with the help of a professional pilot who helped guide him over Etai's house. The teen was thrilled.

'It was a once-in-a lifetime experience to be able to fly wherever I want,' he says.

'Etai enjoyed seeing the world from a bird's eye-view,' says Hilla Boral, an occupational therapist who is also director of the hospital's PELE Center for innovative technology solutions for disabled children. 'For a long time now, Etai has been watching the world from his wheelchair, and everything has become 'lower.' Suddenly, with the adaptive cockpit, there is a sense of height, of levitation.'

'I really enjoyed controlling the machine,'' Etai says 'For a whole hour, I was in a very different world from my everyday life, like a free bird, like escaping from reality.'

Etai's rehabilitation is going to take time - and practice when it comes to trying new ways of doing things.

'We want every child, no matter what happened to him or her, to learn to be independent and to function with his or her peer group as normal as it can be,' says Boral. 'Their whole life is ahead of them and if they learn, for example, from age 3 to serve themselves, to eat by themselves, to get dressed by themselves, even if they're in a wheelchair, then they will grow up being able to do that. If they depend on everyone in their lives, it will be like that for the rest of their lives.'

At ALYN's innovation center, volunteers with technology backgrounds work with children to develop 'tailor-made solutions' for the kinds of things the children want to do, Boral says, which is why the adaptive cockpit was such an inspiring addition.

'The Microsoft cockpit is especially helpful since it involves hand-eye coordination,' says Dr. Maurit Beeri, director general of ALYN. 'It'll give the child an experience of occupational therapy, speech therapy, concentration, cognitive development - and most importantly, it's fun.'

ALYN and the Garage in Israel are working together on other accessible technology projects, including one that uses a game-like approach to teach children in motorized wheelchairs how to operate them.

At House of Wheels, Wanda, 28, and Netanel Gvili, 26, were among the first participants to try out the adaptive cockpit. The two men, born with cerebral palsy, are friends and have been coming to House of Wheels for years.

'If I am not at home with my family, I prefer to be here because here I have a second family,' says Wanda, who also attends classes at Bar Ilan University as part of a program supported by the House of Wheels Day Center. 'I have my place, which no one can take from me. I feel good here.'

'I saw the way Yaniv entered the room where the adaptive cockpit is, and the way he left it - he was like a gladiator,' says Karni. 'He came to fire up his skills, and he was very, very proud of himself.'

Gvili was excited to use technology that allows him to feel like he is piloting a plane. A longtime video game player, he counts car racing games among his favorites. He's also a music enthusiast who likes to produce his friends' music on Cubase, a digital audio workstation for music recording, arranging and editing.

'Independence' was the feeling Gvili says described his experience with the adaptive cockpit and Microsoft Flight Simulator. 'I can choose where to fly. How to fly. It really simulates a flight. Computer games are not new to me, but all of the additional connected devices with the adaptive cockpit are really cool.'

Top photo: Yaniv Wanda, left, and Netanel Gvili at the House of Wheels in Israel. Photo credit: Menash Cohen