Monday, December 6, 2010

The Wii, Kinect and Gaming Technique for Therapy and Disabilities

The Wii has been a great tool for us to use in therapy with students in our school districts. Now we see the new sensor controller-less systems hitting the market and they are all over the TV and their sales are hot this Christmastime. What are the differences in these two kind of systems when looking at therpeutic uses?
An occupational therapist team member and I have been busy at work on building and expanding trials for our therapeutic model for using the Wii with students with disabilities. We have broken it down into 3 domains, physical, cognitive and social/communication. As we have done trials with students, we have found that the game play/strategy that is involved in correcting upper body movements and body/eye coordination, build balance and strengthen cognitive abilities for problem solving and strategizing on even basic levels. We are excited as we further develop our data collection and break down the skills and objectives that the active Wii games can strengthen.

Kinect in the mix - some initial thoughts:
The other day as we were going over some of our notes and findings, we got on the topic of the new Kinect add-on to the X Box for controller-less game play while moving the body like with the Wii. I can see the new sensor systems that bypass hardware you hold as being the new frontier, but the handheld Wii controllers give you the opportunity to still develop the hand and wrist movements in a way that these new systems cannot. It is also more fun than stringing beads and other conventional activities that can get mundane for kids. I am sure that the new Kinect games work areas of upper and lower body awareness, space, coordination, balance and build on cognitive process for problem solving and stragy building. They also require hand movements, but don't have something you hold for grip and movement stregthening. There is also something important about the tangible stepping up on a fit board and balancing that is lost just standing in place on the floor.

Ablegamers has put out a 2 part series on the Kinect and have reviewed the system's strengths and weaknesses for those in the disabled community. It doesn't address the ramifications of the new controller-less sensor systems on therapeutic applications, but is a great review of the system and how Microsoft to them into consideration in the research and development.

We are in our second year of trials at 2 new schools and hopefully we will have a manual, data collection forms and an objective/skill-based grid that spans the three domains sometime next year. This is taking time but we want to do it right. Check back now and then and we will keep you posted and let you know when something is ready. Hopefully our model it will be general enough so that it can apply across multiple game systems - we will keep the Kinect in mind as we press on.

All the best to you!



Ioo said...

I think that the research community is still trying to get the Kinects into the lab, let alone unpack them and set them up. I know a few OT's who are all aglow with the prospects that the Kinect brings.

Just like the Wii, the therapeutic applications will take a few years to really start getting out there. Once they do, I think the Kinects cadre of technologies will be a great tool. Far more flexible than the Wii.

Thanks for covering the Kinect story.

Mark Barlet, President
The AbleGamers Foundation.

Haley M said...

I had never considered using video games as a type of therapy, but reading this made me realize the good that video games could do for those with poor motor skills because video games are known to increase hand eye coordination.

Lon said...

I am finding that these tools are a gold mine of ideas to make therapy more fun. We are seeing growth in the students we work with. The Kinect is so new, I don't have one and don't know that I will invest in the whole Xbox system to research it. For now the Wii has me plenty busy but the potential for the Kinect is huge. Thanks for the comments.