As aforesaid, game therapy, for several reasons, hasn’t picked pace in India. It is yet to set its foot completely in our country. Microsoft Kinect, which is believed to do wonders is yet unexplored here. Game therapy can be used to treat grave issues, which remains unexplored in India.
Using specially crafted games (Image Credit: Reuters)
Developing special games
Just like in case of children with developmental challenges, game therapy has shown positive effects with those suffering from serious ailments, like paralysis and stroke. One cannot use any hardcore game, but there are specially designed games. The Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California has been researching and treating patients with paralysis. Here Kinect-based games are used to assist patients who have suffered paralysis. And not just any Kinect game. It's more about using a Kinect to extend the range of movement of the patient. There are patients who, upon the use of game therapy have shown signs of improvement. Ray Pizarro is one such patient who was paralyzed in an accident 10 years ago. The game therapy requires him to grab gems in a virtual mine environment and the motion-capture technology tracks his movements, as he exercises muscles and improves his mobility in physical therapy with this game. "My posture improved because you have to sit up up right in order to be able to reach properly. My endurance has improved, and also my reaching ability and range of motion because they do force you to reach out a little more than you're used to comfortably,” he said in a report earlier.
These special games are built by a research team at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT). Belinda Lange who leads the team incorporates gesture sensing technology, which responds to physical movement from the patient. "We're leveraging the technologies behind the current video games, so using something like the Microsoft Kinect that can track people in a very low cost way and without having to hold any devices,” she says.
Gaming for treatment...
So, developing games that suit specific needs of a patient is of primary importance. And, seemingly, this is going to take some time in India. But it would be nice if developers could start building games that could assist such therapies. Here again, the hindrance is - do they have a market to cater? Moreover, there is also lack of awareness about existence of such therapy games and software.
Gaming paves way for innovation
Sensor-based gaming consoles are becoming increasingly popular. They let you actively and physically participate in games, instead of merely being the controller an avatar on the TV connected to your gaming console. However, these consoles are used way beyond mere gaming. Just like using gaming as a therapy, they also allow building newer products to help the disabled.
What caught our attention are the Kinectacles and Kinect Bridge showcased at the Microsoft Garage Fair. This tech event has been put up to encourage newer innovations at Microsoft. So, basically Microsoft employees can work on newer technologies and further explore the existing ones in their spare time.
Rishabh Verma showcases Kinectacles at MS Garage Fair...
The ingenious built the Kinectacle, which are glasses designed for the visually challenged, while the Kinect Bridge is for those who suffer from hearing impairment. Kinectacles is a set-up using the Kinect sensor, which scans the area in front of it and the software processes the scanned data to inform the visually disabled about possible interruptions, obstructions on his way. Kinect Bridge enables real-time communication between a speech impaired person with another person who does not know sign language, using Microsoft Kinect for Windows. It uses Kinect to recognize hand and body gestures, convert them into text or speech and transmit it to the user who does not know sign language, and vice versa. This way, a speech impaired person interacts in his/her natural way using sign language and the other person does not need to learn sign language to communicate with the speech impaired user. These devices are aimed at offering real time communication between speech impaired and the other who doesn’t know the sign language.
We spoke to the Microsoft employees and makers of these products - Rishabh Verma from the team that built Kinecatcles and Bangaru Venkatesh from the team that built Kinect Bridge. Well, both haven’t thought of commercializing the products and are working primarily on technical details. The initial prototypes of these products are ready and the teams are working on further enhancements.
We asked them if they have heard about game therapy and this is what they had to say, “We have read about some people around the world who are exploring the option of using video games and motion sensing devices to assist/treat patients but not aware of any commercial product available in the market which is specifically designed to do so. But the idea sounds promising.”
While talking about the challenges faced while crafting such products, they revealed that such products are designed for people with very specific and special needs and requirements. “While all of us read and research about the requirements, it remains a challenge to get into the head and skin of the user to understand if the product would really empower and enable them,” reveal Rishabh and Venkatesh.
While gaming has become the talk of the town, game therapy is yet to make its presence felt. As we see, the concept of game therapy sounds promising and could help many patients. Moreover, if the right games are made available with the readily available consoles in the market, patients can continue the treatment in their homes without the need to visit therapy centers.