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Video Game Physical Therapy

February 17, 2015

A new responsive videogame from Drexel’s RePlay Lab for game research might change the way patients with Cerebral Palsy undergo physical therapy. The game, called Kollect, recently received funding of $130,000 through the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership Program, which helps researchers commercialize discoveries that improve human health. Kollect utilizes motion sensor technology and adaptive gameplay to make physical therapy a more engaging experience, especially for children, in addition to improving patient data collection and analysis for physical therapists.

Dr. Maggie O’Neill, a faculty member in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and a physical therapist, launched the project more than a year ago with Westphal Digital Media professor and RePlay Lab director, Paul Diefenbach, with seed funding from the ExCITE Center. A small group of Digital Media students have worked to develop the game under the supervision of Professors Diefenbach and Dave Mauriello, with five students currently working on the project.

With the use of Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor technology—which allows users to interact with the game via gestures instead of a controller—the game adapts to players’ unique physical abilities. Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability of childhood that causes decreased motor skills and physical activity, and it is especially difficult to keep young patients interested in traditional rehabilitative approaches. With Kollect, they’re able to play an entertaining video game that supports muscular endurance, mobility, and the development of cognitive and sensory capabilities. Click here to watch a video of the game in action.

Therapists can control the game’s settings remotely, so it can be played at home. “Getting to a therapist’s office can be difficult for many people. This way, the therapist can remotely access data that tracks the patient’s movements in space. They’re able to see where the patient might be having difficulty and adjust the game for the next play session,” said Diefenbach. The remote real-time patient treatment allows therapists to track metrics like range of motion and joint rotation.

Kollect is currently entering a rigorous patient study phase with children who have Cerebral Palsy. Dr. Trish Shewokis, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and Dr. Hasan Ayaz, a professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, are assisting with brain monitoring during the testing and data analysis of brain activity, which will be used to help improve the game.

The hope for Kollect, as for all projects funded by the Coulter program, is that it will eventually become commercially available. Professor Diefenbach also notes a potential class for Digital Media students to exclusively develop healthcare games, so that Kollect might be the first of many games that would address neuromuscular conditions, such as patients of MS or strokes.

Established by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership Program is in its ninth year at Drexel and exists at only 16 universities across the country. The programs have funded 280 products nationally with a total of $70 million. More than 40 Drexel products, from devices to diagnostics to drugs, have received a total of $5.54 million.