South West researchers develop first medical technology to use Kinect for stroke patients

June 14, 2012 by
Filed under: News 

Researchers at the University of Southampton and Roke Manor Researchhave used Xbox computer technology to help stroke patients recover manual agility at home. The team is now looking to use the medical technology, which measures hand joint movement, to develop games to help the patients recovery.

The Xbox Kinect works by monitoring whole limb movements allowing controller-free gaming; the gamer becomes the game. However, the University team has taken it a step further to create 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.

Roke Manor, based outside Bournemouth, has been designing complex electronic systems for decodes and is a key design house in the region.

The project aims to help people recovering from a stroke to do 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 highlighted that stroke survivors are being denied the chance to make their best recovery because of a lack of post-hospital care.

“Recovering from a stroke can be a daunting and distressing time for patients and their families. Through our research we know that many people recovering from a stroke find their at-home exercises repetitive and often demotivating,” said Health Sciences academic Dr Cheryl Metcalf, at the University of Southampton who is supervising the project. “If they are already finding it difficult and frustrating to move their hands, they need something to encourage them to try harder. 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.”

The 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.

“Strokes are the largest single cause of severe disability in the UK and it is estimated that every year half of the 100,000 stroke patients experience upper limb problems. This project could make a significant difference to the wellbeing of those affected,” said Simon Wickes, Healthcare Business Sector Manager at Roke. “As Roke has a strong R&D pedigree in mobile and e-health devices, we were able to provide the technical guidance and support to help the students realise this exciting and valuable project. Not only is it a cost effective out-of-the-box solution, by reducing patient recovery times it could also have a positive impact on the £2.5 billion which the care and rehabilitation of stroke patients cost the UK health and social care system each year.”

Using the Microsoft Kinect to help stroke patients recover

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