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Friday 19 August 2022 10:00

The HES-SO Valais-Wallis is a driving force for innovation in a constantly changing world, and has decided to make the most of the skills and knowledge of its five universities by bringing them together in the Digital Transformation Axis. The aim of this research axis is to create an environment conducive to the development of interdisciplinary innovations aimed at meeting current digital challenges. Following a call for projects launched in April, the axis announced its support for three projects whose potential impact was deemed significant.

Designed as a space for collaboration between the nine research institutes of the HES-SO Valais-Wallis, the Digital Transformation Axis sees the participation of representatives from different institutes whose role is to communicate and coordinate the exchange of information on projects and initiatives related to digital transformation. It also promotes external collaborations, among others through the Swiss Digital Center in Sierre.

Call for projects: promoting projects at the service of the population

The Digital Transformation Axis promotes interdisciplinary projects between institutions and offers a maximum of CHF 50,000 in funding per project. The ambition is to enhance actions and projects already underway ("digital booster"), while promoting new collaborations in order to demonstrate the added value of a multidisciplinary approach in the field. Projects must be able to demonstrate a significant and rapid societal, human, economic or technological impact for the region.

Three projects have been selected for the year 2022. They will enable a portrait of digitalisation in Valais to be drawn up and will contribute to exploiting the potential of digitalisation in the important fields of health and education. Thus, the Digital Transformation Axis has selected the following projects:

1. Living in the mountains in the digital age: a portrait of the digital divide in Valais.

The project led by Alain Imboden, Professor at the Tourism Institute, aims to analyse the factors influencing the digital divide in Valais by identifying the uses, skills and perceptions of the Valais population with regard to digital tools and services. It aims to determine the elements contributing to the existence of a digital divide with the objective of providing solutions, but also to highlight the benefits of digitalisation. The imbalance in terms of digitalisation is also geographical. The plains and the mountains do not currently benefit from the same level of facilities and use of digital tools. A good understanding and management of the digital transition at the level of the Valais is therefore an important issue in order to ensure the inclusion of the whole population. Such a transition can offer new perspectives for rural or mountain communities, by allowing the overcoming of distances and barriers linked to the geographical configuration of the canton and by limiting migration towards the large urban centres. 

2. Digital rehabilitation of osteoarthritis: analysis of the patient's trajectory for the detection and monitoring of distinctive signs

The project led by Professor Jean-Paul Calbimonte of the Institut of Informatics aims to improve the care of patients suffering from osteoarthritis. Digital rehabilitation can significantly improve patient support, guidance, treatment and follow-up, while reducing costs and improving quality of life for patients suffering from conditions such as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis of the hips and knees, as well as chronic or recurrent low back pain, represent a massive burden for individuals and society, generating huge health costs. This project aims to co-design and prototype a mobile application for patients suffering from osteoarthritis. The project is based on chatbot interactions for data retrieval and patient support, trajectory analysis to identify high-risk markers and follow-up of osteoarthritis patients. Finally, the patient application will produce recommendations for patient guidelines and education, supporting exercise groups and disease self-management.

3. VRHeadset4SpecialNeeds

The VRHeadset4SpecialNeeds project of Prof. Silvan Zahno from the Institute of Industrial Systems aims to support learners with learning difficulties with the help of a commercial virtual reality headset. In the course of this project, it became clear that commercially available VR headsets were not ideal for the target population due to several factors. One of these factors is the noticeable latency between the user's movement and its delayed effect displayed on the screen in the virtual reality space. The most effective solution to reduce this latency and improve user immersion is to work on the hardware. In this project, among the various components making up a complete VR headset, only the component responsible for tracking the spatial environment and movements is targeted. By exploiting all the capabilities of event-driven cameras, the aim is to develop a component capable of tracking movement 2 to 10 times faster. This component will work in conjunction with an existing VR headset.

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