Researchers use Kinect gesture control in stroke rehab system

UK researchers have developed a home recovery system for stroke patients using Microsoft’s Kinect gesture control device.

A team from Southampton University and Roke Manor Research used the games console motion controller to create a system that tracks hand joint angles and individual finger movements in order to encourage the practice of precise exercises.

It will allow patients to follow the exercises on a TV screen while the data collected will be fed back to doctors monitoring the recovery, reducing the number of hospital visits needed.

‘Through our research we know that many people recovering from a stroke find their at-home exercises repetitive and often demotivating,’ said Southampton health sciences academic Dr Cheryl Metcalf in a statement.

‘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 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 that stated that stroke survivors do not get enough post-hospital care.

The team’s next objective is to create a series of computer games to make the rehabilitation process more interesting for the patient by adapting to each patient’s ability and feeding back higher scores if their joint movements improve.

Simon Wickes, healthcare business sector manager at Roke, said: ‘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.

‘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 £2.5bn which the care and rehabilitation of stroke patients cost the UK health and social care system each year.’