Video Games Aide in Physical Therapy
Getting hurt is no fun and recovering physically is tedious and often frustrating. Patients recovering from surgery, injuries and illness such as a cardiac patient often face a long recovery strategy to repair and strength the damage. However, patients may soon be able to play their way to a full recovery using intelligent robotic systems that generate specialized games to challenge the human body's abilities and strengthen that, which is damaged.
Henrik Hautop Lund is a robotics and artificial intelligence professor at the University of Southern Denmark. He is developing what he calls therapy tiles that guide patients through physical routines, which help them, heal. Each tile is a tiny robotic system employing neural networks.
NOTE: Neural Networks - A type of artificial intelligence that attempts to imitate the way a human brain works.
The system looks like a high tech sophisticated version of Dance Dance Revolution . As patients step on or press the tiles with their hands, the tiles give feedback, indicating whether their pressure was firm enough, or if the user is moving quickly enough. Individuals can use the game alone, or can play the game with up to four other patients. In addition, the tiles can be put together in any pattern on the walls and on the floor to create a clever and fun while therapeutic game space.
Developed as an alternative to tedious and often boring repetitive physical-rehabilitation exercises, Henrik Hautop Lund said therapy tiles help motivate patients to exercise by providing an instant response to their every movement and frequent feedback on their progress. Each therapy tile contains its own processor, rechargeable batteries, pressure sensor, colored LEDs and communication system.
Patients become so occupied with the game that they often forget they are exercising which anther using different LED colors to get their pulse rate up to the required level. Healing becomes the bonus to playing the game instead of the focus.
"The modular robotic tiles are part of what we term 'playware' -- intelligent hardware and software that produces play and playful experiences," Lund said. "The equipment creates a playful experience that motivates them to perform the actions needed for the recovery of their abilities."
Games for specific therapeutic treatments are downloaded into a master tile, which detects the tiles' structure and initiates the game. The tiles analyze patients' movements, measuring their progress and compare it how a patients should be moving according to their injury.
- For those who have undergone knee surgery, the tiles check for the correct movement of the knee and proper force that should be exerted to play the game.
- Patients with hip injuries will walk a programmed path so that the tiles can examine the walker for the appropriate weight and force being exerted by the hip and leg.
- Other games include games for the elderly that include balance training.
At the end of the game the master tile summarizes the patient's performance on a small display.
The cardiac rehabilitation unit at Sygehus Fyn Svendborg hospital in Svendborg, Denmark, has used therapy tiles for a year, and a rehabilitation center in Odense Denmark has been using them for three months. The system is most beneficial for patients who require minimal therapy and those who need rehabilitation after being discharged from a hospital. Because the rehabilitation game is so easy to set up and use, patients will soon be able take the tiles home. Lund plans to mass-produce the technology through a startup company called Entertainment Robotics.
Henrik Hautop Lund's team is investigating using the tiles to help autistic children and patients with cognitive problems and as part of a project called Feelix Growing. NOTE: Cognitive problems are difficulties in processing information, including such mental tasks as attention, thinking, and memory.
Future advancements of the technology will allow the tiles to respond based on the patients' physiology while playing the game. If the patient is getting tired, for example, the tiles could lower the difficulty level until the patient is sufficiently rested.
"The next natural step," Lund said, "is to use artificial neural networks to do classification of the patient's behavior and adapt the game (in real time)."