Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 14 News List

Developer aiming to turn therapy into video game

AFP, VANCOUVER

A broken arm as a boy led Cosmin Mihaiu and some inventive colleagues to turn tedious physical rehabilitation exercises into a game that they hope can make it easier for people to recover from injuries.

The Romania-born software engineer demonstrated the game on Thursday at a TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada, showing how it can be played on Microsoft Corp’s motion-sensing video game platform Kinect for Xbox.

“We need to come up with solutions to get patients motivated to get better,” Mihaiu said. “No one likes treatment, but if we can make it in a way where people don’t think it is cumbersome, they will get better faster and save costs.”

Mihaiu and colleagues devised the software application to work with physical therapists to customize motion-control games to reward patients for doing prescribed movements.

The system, called MIRA (Medical Interactive Recovery Assistant), is currently designed for offline play in clinics. Its makers plan to create an online version that people could use at home, with performance data transmitted to therapists.

MIRA is being tried in clinics in Britain and Romania, with an annual subscription price of several thousand US dollars, Mihaiu said.

He said that there is a large market in the rehabilitation industry because unlike consumer-focused fitness games, medical games come with endorsement and follow-up by doctors, nurses or therapists.

Other game makers have caught on.

Ubisoft Corp early this month unveiled a tablet video game crafted as a prescription for a medical condition known as “lazy eye,” blending the worlds of play and treatment.

The France-based video game titan created Dig Rush in collaboration with US health technology start-up Amblyotech Inc, using treatment technology from innovators at McGill University in Canada.

The game targets amblyopia, a condition in which a person’s eye and brain are out of sync. It is reported to affect 3 percent of the global population.

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