Briton researchers have recently designed a video game that enables healthy volunteers to play with patients recovering from stroke as a form of rehabilitation.
Researchers from Imperial College London designed a video game called Balloon Buddies, a tool that enables those recovering from conditions such as a stroke to engage and play together with healthy volunteers, like the therapists and family members as a form of rehabilitation.
The game uses animation, sounds, and vibration-feedback, similar to conventional video games and requires users to balance a ball on a beam, which is lifted at each of its ends by balloons controlled by the players.
Lead study author Dr Michael Mace from Imperial College London said that video games are a great way to provide repetitive exercise to help patients recover from debilitating illnesses.
"We developed the Balloon Buddy game to enable patients to train with their friends, family or caregivers in a collaborative and playful manner," Mace added.
The researchers stated that this type of collaboration makes it more rewarding for the less-abled partner, more challenging for the better partner and overall more fun for both, as they have to continuously work together to score points.
The team analysed 16 patients, who had arm weakness following a stroke and 32 healthy participants playing in pairs by getting patients to play it on their own in single player mode and then partnered with healthy volunteers during dual player game play.
The findings indicated that the performance of the patient was boosted when they played with a healthy volunteer, compared to if they were playing the game on their own.
In addition, they also found that the poorer a patient's single player performance was, the greater the improvement was seen when they played with another during dual-player mode.
They suggest that by increasing engagement with healthy volunteers the patients may be more likely to increase the effort they put into training, which could ultimately lead to greater gains in physical performance.
The researchers believe this form of rehabilitation through gaming may be beneficial to patients recovering from other illnesses such as musculoskeletal injuries, arthritis and cerebral palsy.
The technology is still being developed, but the team has shown that playing jointly with another individual may lead to increased engagement and better outcomes for patients.
The research is published in the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation (JNER).