Video game/robotics combo designed to help stroke victims recover
By Ben Coxworth
July 20, 2011
This April, researchers from Montreal's McGill University announced the development of their prototype Biomedical Sensor Glove. Stroke victims who have lost the use of their hand are intended the wear the glove, then use it at home to play custom video games on an attached computer. Not only do those games help them regain the use of their hand, but the computer also sends data regarding their gaming performance on to their physician, so they can track the patient's progress remotely. Well, it seems that Spanish researchers have now developed a similar system for the rehabilitation of paralyzed arms, called ArmAssist.
Developed by the FIK business initiative, the ArmAssist hardware consists of a robotic brace worn on the user's arm. This measures movements of their shoulder and elbow, which are required for them to play therapeutic videogames on an attached computer.
Patients would be given one of the braces, which they would take home and use for regular gaming sessions. As is the case with the glove, physicians would be able to remotely monitor patients' progress with the games, via the internet. This would save the patients from having to make repeated trips in to a rehabilitative clinic for every gaming session, plus it would free up space in those clinics for patients who still needed to come in.
The games would be divided into evaluation and training categories. The evaluation games would be short, and would take place at the beginning and end of each session. They would emphasize range of motion, force, distance and precision of arm movements, and would be used by the physicians to determine how the patient's rehabilitation was progressing.
The training games would be longer, and would focus more on motivating the patient to improve. They would also have more of a cognitive component, including things like puzzles and memory games, that would get the user's brain working in coordination with their arm.
ArmAssist is currently being tested with patients at Valencia's La Fe Hospital, with clinical trials also planned for other locations.