Final Project Proposal: Physiotherapy as Game Experience


For my final project, I will create a wearable physiotherapy implement which will
transform the normally arduous task of performing therapy exercises  into a playful
and game-like activity.

Through this wearable device, a user’s level of physical exertion will be translated
into behaviors and rewards within a game-like experience, and their ongoing
progress will be stored persistently so that they can compete against their last
‘high score’. This layer of self-competitive play will add an enjoyable incentive
to performing therapy exercises, and encourage a higher level of engagement.
The ultimate aim of the project is to elevate physiotherapy exercises to something
that a user can ‘look forward to’, or even become addicted to, thereby increasing
exercise frequency and speeding recovery.

Main Directions:

Initially, I will be exploring two types of self-competitive game experiences
(one of which will be chosen for the final prototype):

i) Game experience that lives on the wearable:
The wearable device will consist of sensors measuring physical exertion (e.g. flex)
on one or more parts of the body, which will then be translated into pleasurable
feedback from actuators mounted on the device (e.g. music playback, lighting of
LED’s). The user’s last ‘high score‘ will be stored on the onboard microprocessor
(e.g. Arduino EEPROM) and visualized via the actuators, so that he/ she can
compete against (and surpass) it.

Simple example:
User’s exertion level is mapped onto an LED ‘bar graph‘ (a row of 10 LED’s).
When the experience starts, the number of LED’s lit will correspond to their last
high score, giving them a reference to ‘beat‘ during the current session.

ii) Game experience that lives outside the wearable:
The sensor-enabled wearable device will send physical exertion data to an external
game (e.g. a Processing game running on the user’s computer), which will then be
translated into game events on-screen. The last high score will be used to drive
game mechanics intended to encourage self-competition.

Simple example:
User’s exertion level is used to ‘grow‘ a computer-generated tree onscreen — the
harder the user tries, the larger and taller the tree will grow. The size of the tree
will be saved after each session, and can also be used to measure the user’s
overall progress in their exercises.

Usage Context:

The main usage context will be in the user’s home, while they perform
daily exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist.

However, the data should be stored in a way that it can be accessed
by the user’s physiotherapist (during in-person appointments), so that
progress can be tracked. Ideally, the data could even be sent in real-time to
a website.

Research Plan:

The following are some questions and areas for further research/ experimentation
to drive the final prototype:

– What are some common physiotherapy/ occupational therapy exercises, and
what are the types of movement shared between them? Which exercises provide
the greatest opportunity for a game experience? These questions will decide the
ideal placement of the device on the body)

– What are some related projects that add an interactive/ technological layer to
physiotherapy exercises?
Some initial links:

– What game mechanics/ behaviors would create the most effective
incentives for ‘progress‘ within the game, and encourage ‘addiction’?
(e.g. scoring system, levelling up, unlocking of powerups)

–  How can the wearable device be used most effectively as a game interface?
(e.g. physical form, types of feedback that ‘make sense’ within the game experience)

Technical Research Plan:

– Experiment with Arduino on-board EEPROM (to test onboard storage of exercise data)
– Experimentation with appropriate sensors — flex, stretch, and pressure sensors
– Strategies for sending exercise data to the external Processing game (e.g. XBee,USB)

– Strategies for receiving exercise data from Arduino (via serial)
– Experimentation with different visualizations and sonifications
– For the external game experience, decide on ideal strategy to store
data persistently (e.g. a text file, a database)

Initial Materials List:

– Fabric
– Thread
– Velcro

Arduino components:
– Arduino Uno & Fio
– Xbee module

– Flex sensor
– Stretch sensor
– Pressure sensor

– Various colors of LED
– Small speakers

– Conductive thread
– Wire

1 comment to Final Project Proposal: Physiotherapy as Game Experience

  • Very thorough proposal. It would be great if users could view their progress over time – for instance see how much their range of motion has improved over the course of a month.

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