A game controller for stroke rehabilitation

Student Name Will Duncan
Master Thesis 2015/2016

Stroke is the leading cause of chronic disability in industrialised nations. Recovery following stroke is a often a long term process requiring high doses of rehabilitation. Due to the limited time of clinical supervision provided to stroke survivors, most rehabilitation takes place in the home, unsupervised by practitioners. Due to the monotony of repetitive exercises, exergames have been promoted for use in the home to make rehabilitation entertaining, increasing patients engagement with their therapy. By exergames making therapy at home fun, patients are more likely to complete their home based rehabilitation, optimising their recovery. However, marketed exergaming systems for lower limb rehabilitation are hard to find, and none as of yet facilitate strength for task training, a novel physiotherapeutic method that has been found to promote better outcomes for the patient when compared to traditional lower limb rehabilitation methods.          

This research investigates how the design of an exergame controller as part of an exergaming system for lower limb stroke rehabilitation can facilitate Strength for Task Training and reduce the need for expensive therapist time.

Current marketed exergame hardware address ease of use and accuracy. However, there is a lack of aesthetic consideration in the design of devices that re-enforces the stigma that exists towards using rehabilitative devices in the home. There is also strong evidence to suggest that hardware that adapts to patient’s’ individual needs can promote better outcomes for the patient.

A participatory design approach was followed to involve clinicians and stroke survivors in the design process. Workshops with stroke clinicians and neurophysiologists pointed to the need of a system that facilitate Strength for Task training as well as generating specific criteria to inform the design process. An iterative design approach was followed to develop, compare and improve concepts through testing with participants and clinicians. Subsequent prototypes integrated with wireless sensing technology were subjected to user testing with stroke patients and clinicians. User testing consisted of 5 participants testing the final design to fill usability heuristics and complete a questionnaire to gain qualitative information on the device’s aesthetics.

The final output was an aesthetically considered wearable controller for the foot that uses a modular sole system to integrate a variety of potential weights and resistances, adapting the level of difficulty to match the patient’s progress. This controller interacts with gaming software developed by fellow Masters student Scott Brebner combining to produce a complete home based exergaming system that facilitates strength for task training. Further research should test the designs over a longer period of time and with a higher number of participants for clinical validation.

Designer and Master thesis: Will Duncan

Creative director and supervisor: Edgar Rodriguez