Working to make trips to rehab less mind numbing and more productive, Henrik Hautop Lund, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Southern Denmark, is working on a system of interactive touch pads that turn therapy into “playware”.
Each tile is a miniature robotic system employing neural networks. The system looks like an elaborate, electronic version of Twister. As patients step on or press the tiles with their hands, the tiles give feedback, indicating whether ther pressure is firm enough, or if the user is moving quickly enough. Individuals can use the game alone, or up to four patients can compete against each other in a game. The tiles can be assembled in any configuration on the walls and floor to create an intelligent game space.
“The modular robotic tiles are part of what we term ‘playware’ — intelligent hardware and software that produces play and playful experiences,” Lund said. “The equipment creates a playful experience that motivates them to perform the actions needed for the recovery of their abilities.”
Developed as an alternative to tedious and often monotonous physical-rehabilitation exercises, Lund said therapy tiles motivate patients to exercise by providing an instant response to their every movement and continual feedback on their progress.
Patients become so engaged with the tiles that they often recover with less effort than trying to stick to a boring workout routine. Cardiac patients, for example, can compete with each other in a “color race” to get their pulse rate up to the required levels — healing becomes almost an afterthought.