Microsoft's Kinect adds video game based therapy to physical rehab

Staff Writer


Despite selling more than 10 million devices on the Xbox 360 in the first few months of release, the Kinect hasn’t been regarded well amongst gamers. The lack of commercial interest in the device is unfortunate because the Kinect is an extremely powerful piece of sensory hardware. It is, however, encouraging to see a French software company, RM ingénierie, use it in their game based physical therapy system called Kinapsys

RM ingénierie’s healthcare solution uses on-screen games to motivate patients to do exercises that will help improve their recovery times. Each game is tailored by a therapist to fit the needs of their patient. For example, if a patient has had a knee operation, a therapist might design a game that would involve walking along a virtual trail. As the avatar traverses forward, the patient is encouraged to squat and move laterally to help the avatar avoid obstacles in its path. The Kinect transfers the patient’s movements to the avatar and at the end of the trail, the patient gets a score; something for them to aim for when they play the game again.

The system provides exercises and games that facilitate such goals as improved joint movement, muscle toning, gesture reprogramming, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. It also features programs that address the specific PT needs of patients with back problems and neurological damage from strokes.

This isn’t the first time Kinect has been used as a healthcare peripheral. A German healthcare company has developed a system that uses the Kinect to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Microsoft has also developed a test program that enables people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease to perform tests and therapy from their homes. Another example, the Kinect has been used by the company Brooks, as part of a physical therapy tutor solution called Reflexion Health’s Vera Technology
It’s interesting to see the Kinect being used more and more as a healthcare aid. Kinect can accurately track the movement of the body that is making it a perfect fit for the healthcare industry. On the other hand, gamers are used to sitting down with a controller in their hand and most don’t particularly want to stand up during their down time. Perhaps, that is the main reason why the Kinect is arguably struggling in commercial gaming. Whatever the outcome, it would appear that there is still a whole lot of life left in the Kinect.