Kinect aids physical therapy

Take the latest Kinect sensor, a PC, a high-definition monitor, and an onscreen avatar—and what do you have? The newest first-person shooter game for Xbox? Nope. What you have is one of most carefully designed physical therapy (PT) systems available: Kinapsys.

Created by RM ingénierie, a French company that designs and develops software for the healthcare industry, Kinapsys uses game-based exercises to provide comprehensive functional rehabilitation of PT patients. Patients simply stand or sit in front of the Kinect sensor and the monitor while they play games that entail movements that are tailored to each patient’s therapeutic needs. For example, a patient who has undergone knee ligament repair can play a game on a virtual walking trail. As the onscreen avatar strolls along, the patient must squat and move laterally to help the avatar avoid objects that hang from above or protrude from the side. Those movements are beneficial for restoring knee function.

The Kinect sensor captures the patient’s movements and transfers them to the avatar. More importantly, the sensor precisely tracks the position of the patient’s joints and compares his or her range of movement against prescribed goals that the therapist has entered into the system. At the end of the game, the patient receives a score that allows both patient and therapist to measure therapeutic progress accurately.

While the games are at the heart of the therapy, Kinapsys offers other interactive modalities that ensure that patients perform the exercises correctly. Here, too, Kinect-enabled interaction is an essential component. In every case, patients see their own image on screen, with their tracked joints superimposed. Depending on the therapist’s choice, patients might see a mirror image of themselves, which allows them to practice the moves and receive immediate feedback on their performance. Alternatively, they might see an avatar that provides feedback on the speed and rhythm of their exercise movements, or they might interact directly with a game interface.

Programmed with more than 400 specific exercises, Kinapsys allows the therapist to create a regimen customized for each patient at every stage of their therapy—from the earliest stages of rehabilitation through the reinforcement of reacquired skills. 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. In addition, Kinapsys provides group therapy modules, and the system can be purchased in a mobile configuration, complete with a cart that lets the physical therapist transport Kinapsys to assisted living facilities, community centers, or anywhere that it’s needed.

But what really sets Kinapsys apart from traditional physical therapy is the Kinect sensor’s ability to track body movements precisely. This enables the system to measure and chart patient progress with far greater accuracy than ever, and allows the therapist to modify the regimen for maximum patient benefit.

The Kinect for Windows Team

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