Students from Rice University are using Wii balance boards to create a balance training system for kids. They have linked five balance boards to a computerized motion-tracking system and developed a game based on this system to help children advance their skills. The boards are lined up in a row between active handrails that provide feedback on how heavily users depend on their arms. From the press release:
The game requires patients to shoot approaching monsters by hitting particular spots with their feet as they step along the Wii array, computer science student Jesus Cortez, one of the game’s creators, explained. The game gets harder as the patients improve, he said, and the chance to rack up points gives them an incentive.
A further step, not yet implemented, would be to program feedback from the handrails into the game. Leaning on the rails would subtract points from the users’ scores, encouraging them to improve their postures. The game would also present challenges specific to younger and older children to keep them engaged.
The system’s components include a PC, the Wii boards (aligned in a frame) and two balance beam-like handrails that read how much force patients are putting on their hands. Communications to the PC are handled via the Wii’s native Bluetooth protocol.
The prototype system costs less than $2,000, which is a fraction of the cost of similar specialized systems. It will be used with children that have conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida or amputations, who can practice tasks including standing still, taking a couple of steps and turning around without losing balance.
Video of the students explaining the development of the device:
Press release: Wii key to helping kids balance…
(hat tip: Engadget)