Red Hill Studios is using the motion technology found in the Xbox 360 and Wii consoles to help people with Parkinson's disease improve their gait and balance. Researchers have used the technology to help stroke victims in a similar fashion, so aiming the technology at other afflictions makes perfect sense. Red Hill is collaborating with the UCSF School of Nursing to develop the game.
The clinical team members at UCSF are focusing on specific body movements and gestures that their research has shown slow down the physical declines of Parkinson's. Using that research and working closely with UCSF clinical team members, Red Hill has created nine games so far. The results have proven to be fairly effective too. Over half of the subjects in a three-month research project showed small improvements in walking speed, balance and stride length. 65 percent of players demonstrated longer stride length; 55 percent showed signs of increased gait velocity, and 55 percent reported improved balance confidence after playing the games for 12 weeks.
"Each subject found his or her own gaming 'sweet spot' – the spot where the physical challenge was not too hard, not too easy, just right,'' said Bob Hone, creative director of Red Hill Studios and the lead Principal Investigator of the study. "And when subjects mastered one game level, they often moved on to harder levels for more beneficial effect. The subjects improved their games scores while improving their gait and balance.''
In order to boost the effectiveness of the game-based therapy and to track how well it worked, Red Hill developed a custom sensor suit with nine tracking sensors to analyze subjects' movements with higher resolution and accuracy than what's currently possible with standard gaming platforms.
Hopefully we'll hear more about advances in the game-based therapy technology in the months ahead.