Researchers at of Southampton University (Southampton, UK) and Roke Manor Research (Romsey, UK) have developed a biomechanics system using Microsoft's Kinect that can help stroke patients recover manual agility.
The Xbox Kinect works by monitoring whole limb movements allowing controller-free gaming. However, the university team has taken the concept a step further by creating an algorithm that tracks and measures hand joint angles and the fine dexterity of individual finger movements. The ultimate aim is to capture the data while the patients follow exercises on a TV screen.
The researchers hope that the system will help people recovering from a stroke to perform more regular and precise exercises so that they recover faster. The data collected will be fed back to the therapists caring for the patient so they can continually monitor progress, reducing the need for frequent hospital visits.
This new system has been developed to complement the home-based physiotherapy care already offered to patients in the UK, and follows a recent Stroke Association report which stated that stroke survivors are being denied the chance to make their best recovery because of a lack of post-hospital care.
"Through our research we know that many people recovering from a stroke find their at-home exercises repetitive and often demotivating. If they are already finding it difficult and frustrating to move their hands, they need something to encourage them to try harder," says Dr. Cheryl Metcalf from Southampton University.
"We wanted to create a more engaging way to help them recover faster. Using the Kinect we have been able to take a commercially available product and develop a highly novel tool that aims to be both cost effective and clinically applicable," she adds.
The Southampton and Roke team's next objective is to create a series of computer games to make the rehabilitation process more interesting for the patient. The games will adapt to each individual's ability and help motivate them to reach rehabilitation goals by feeding back higher scores if their joint movements improve.
-- by Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design