Teaching children to walk using video games

team_equiliberator

Medical conditions that prevent individuals from being able to walk are difficult to handle, even more so if the patient happens to be a child. Shriner’s hospitals treat a good number of children suffering from cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or amputations. They are always looking for creative treatment methods, so their Motion Analysis Laboratory looked to some Rice University undergrads for help. They asked the group of engineers to design a system that would make physical therapy a bit more fun, while helping encourage the children along.

The team recently unveiled their project, called the Equiliberator. The game system incorporates a series of five Wii balance boards situated between a pair of pressure-sensitive handrails. The platform communicates with a computer via Bluetooth, registering the patient’s movements as he or she moves along the path. The software portion of the system consists of a monster-slaying game which requires the child to step on a particular section of the pathway to dispose of the oncoming enemies.

The game is designed to get more difficult as the child’s balance and coordination improve, encouraging them with an ever growing bank of points as they progress. The final goal of the project is to enable the pressure sensitive handrails to determine how much the child is relying on them for balance, offering in-game incentives to walk with as little support as possible.

We love seeing hacks like this which not only entertain, but truly help people in the process. Kudos to the team at Rice University – they have done a fantastic job here.

Continue reading to see a quick video describing the Equiliberator in the designers’ own words.

[via MedGadget]

Comments

  1. Miles Hale says:

    I love seeing stuff like this.

    I did a thesis on stroke rehabilitation with a PS3 Eye and during my reasearch I found that the are LOADS of people and groups taking advantages of games and consoles to help people regain their cognitive ability.

    It’s amazing to see that they can be used for so much more than just entertainment.

  2. ArthurGrimley says:

    Hi Miles, is your thesis available anywhere? I’d love to have a read of it

  3. This is what it’s all about! It’s cool and fun tho hack something up and learn and make things do something that you want. But creating something for some one else that you know will change their life in a positive way is much more rewarding.

    I salute you guys out there trying to help the world. It needs help, its obvious.

  4. dan fruzzetti says:

    Undergrads are not ‘engineers.’ You could call them ‘amateur engineers’ or ‘engineers-in-training’ or something, but the title “engineer” is a real, professional title.

  5. nafkin says:

    Dan, know the meaning of a word before you jump the gun making an asinine comment. Dictionaries are a wonderful resource.

  6. raidscsi says:

    @fruzzetti

    Your a dork, looking for a negative in a good thing. I would bet that they are all EITs, Engineer in Training, which legally makes them Engineers.

    Also I have my MCSE(Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), which is now called a MCITP(Microsoft Certified IT Professional)… semantics and wording. Get off your high horse and do something nice for someone.

  7. Zhou says:

    @dan fruzzetti
    I agree. It took me five years to get a BS in Custodial Engineering- I hate to see the term abused too.

  8. Randall says:

    Like Engineer, Assh0le has a literally meaning I am pretty certain you can tell the difference.

    for the rest, bravo for justifying the gaming systems, using commodity parts makes rehab viable for more people and inspires all of us (engineers or otherwise) look outside the box for solutions to problems that traditionally solved would like be significantly more expensive.

  9. Anne Ominous says:

    I have only one issue with this: I hope the finished version does not use the same LabView software, because almost by itself that could kick you over the price limit.

  10. Anne Ominous says:

    I absolutely love the name, though. That alone was worth taking the time to read the article.

  11. Tom says:

    This is an interesting project, and I hope the work leads to further advances. Rice has some sharp folks (full disclosure: my son/PhD and daughter/MD both graduated from Rice).

    BTW, an EIT is an Engineer In Training. Anybody can call him/herself an Engineer, (most states) but certain engineering activities require a Professional Engineer’s license. An EIT cannot legally perform those activities.

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