Posts Tagged Microsoft
Microsoft and the Department of Veterans Affairs have announced a new collaboration to help veterans with limited mobility get back in the game.
Thanks to the new Xbox Adaptive Controller a game controller made for people with limited mobility. The tech giant is helping provide Xbox controllers and services to vets as a part of their therapeutic and rehabilitative activities to help challenge muscle activation and hand-eye coordination and increase participation in social and recreational activities.
“This partnership is another step toward achieving VA’s strategic goals of providing excellent customer experiences and business transformation,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “VA remains committed to offering solutions for Veterans’ daily life challenges.”
Gaming is a popular activity among the military and vet community — but using a traditional game controller is a big obstacle for many injured veterans, and losing out on this activity was a big blow for many in the community.
“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” said Dr. Leif Nelson of the National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events at the VA.
And while many still see playing video games as a lonely activity, it is actually the opposite for many.
“Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals,” Dr. Nelson said.
Jeff Holguin, who was discharged for the U.S. Coast Guard after an injury, used gaming as a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. After losing a career in the military, he lost part of his identity and felt adrift in the civilian world. And so he turned to gaming.
“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” Holguin said. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”
Mike Monthervil, a U.S. Army veteran injured in Afghanistan, sees gaming as a big help in his recovery. “I think gaming is helping soldiers like myself getting back to doing what they love and bringing joy into their lives.”
And the benefits extend beyond the social.
“We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming,” said recreation therapist Jamie Kaplan. “It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing and we’re able to use the game in their treatment plans.”
Microsoft is donating the controllers, game consoles, games, and other adaptive equipment in the hopes of bringing gaming to veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, and neurological or other injuries at 22 VA medical centers across the US.
“We owe so much to the service and sacrifice of our Veterans, and as a company, we are committed to supporting them,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. “Our Xbox Adaptive Controller was designed to make gaming more accessible to millions of people worldwide, and we’re partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to bring the device to Veterans with limited mobility, connecting them to the games they love and the people they want to play with.”
The strength of adaptive technology has rippled out into the video gaming realm. On May 16 Microsoft reported the coming release of the Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller, which allows individuals who have extremely limited function in their upper extremities to take the controls of their favorite video game. For people affected by spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or other challenging physical circumstances, the Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller brings individuals into the game who previously watched from the sidelines.
While Microsoft has stocked the gaming market with a variety of controllers lauded for their customization ability, comfort, and responsiveness, those devices uniformly share one shortcoming: their designers assume the user will have two hands.
“The latest controller for Xbox totally changes this script,” tech industry reporter, Jessica Conditt, says in a report about the new device. “It’s built for players with one hand, no hands, or lack of fine motor control.”
In contrast to the popular butterfly shape of conventional Xbox controllers, the adaptive controller is an 11-inch by 6-inch rectangle, loaded with 19 inputs on the back that correspond with every button on a conventional Xbox controller. Microsoft reports that the device can be connected to external switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks. Accessories include a sip-puff joystick, a one-handed joystick, and hardware that allows the game to be controlled with one leg placed between two buttons.
An online video depicts how individuals affected by varying disabilities are using the adaptive controller.
For occupational therapists and physical therapists, the new adaptive controller may represent a device that not only has therapeutic qualities to be harnessed, but a way to reconnect patients recovering from injury with their favorite pastimes, and maintain personal relationships.
“Our role as occupational therapists is to get people back to doing,” says Erin Muston-Firsch, MSOT, a clinician at Craig Hospital, Denver, in a video that demonstrates how the controller is used by patients who have spinal cord injuries. The device is made to integrate smoothly and provide a user experience that will be familiar to experienced gamers.
For those who want to get back to gaming rather than be faced with a litany of technical glitches, Muston-Firsch says of the new controller, “It just works.”
The device can also positively affect socialization, according to Muston-Firsch. In the video she explains that prior to a spinal cord injury a favorite pastime of a young male patient at Craig was to play video games regularly with his twin brother. The interaction provided a way for them to relate to each other prior to the injury. Muston-Firsch points out that the new controller’s “co-pilot” feature enabled the brothers to once again play video games with each other.
Engineers and Disabled Gamers Collaborate
The inspiration for the controller took root in 2014 when a Microsoft employee reportedly stumbled onto a Twitter photo that depicted a video game controller developed for injured war veterans. To participate in video games some veterans had to overcome obstacles created by multiple amputations, quadriplegia, and traumatic brain injury.
A collaboration of purposeful hacking followed, which helped fuel teamwork inside Microsoft’s Inclusive Tech Lab between the company’s hardware developers and gamers affected by disabilities who were brought into the lab for consultation.
“As the game platforms have gotten more sophisticated, the controllers have gotten more sophisticated, and [playing the games] started to get frustrating,” says a gamer identified only as ‘John,’ who is affected by cerebral palsy on his entire right side. He explains in an online video the how the interface allows him to engage in play.
Microsoft chief accessibility officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, notes in her May 16 blog entry that the device is designed primarily for gamers who have limited mobility. Furthermore, she says, the device will allow individuals to create a custom controller experience that is affordable, and will be adaptive to a variety of disabilities.
Lay-Flurrie writes: “We gained feedback from people with disabilities and collaborated with gamers to build an accessible controller from the ground up, and I think this will make a huge difference for gamers of all abilities — connecting more gamers than ever before.”
Individuals can request an email notification from Microsoft when the controller becomes available.
Frank Long is editorial director of Rehab Management andPhysical Therapy Products. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
[ARTICLE] “Kinect-ing” With Clinicians: A Knowledge Translation Resource to Support Decision Making About Video Game Use in Rehabilitation
Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 virtual reality (VR) video games are promising rehabilitation options because they involve motivating, full-body movement practice. However, these games were designed for recreational use, which creates challenges for clinical implementation. Busy clinicians require decision-making support to inform game selection and implementation that address individual therapeutic goals.
This article describes the development and preliminary evaluation of a knowledge translation (KT) resource to support clinical decision making about selection and use of Kinect games in physical therapy. The knowledge-to-action framework guided the development of the Kinecting With Clinicians (KWiC) resource. Five physical therapists with VR and video game expertise analyzed the Kinect Adventure games. A consensus-building method was used to arrive at categories to organize clinically relevant attributes guiding game selection and game play.
The process and results of an exploratory usability evaluation of the KWiC resource by clinicians through interviews and focus groups at 4 clinical sites is described. Subsequent steps in the evaluation and KT process are proposed, including making the KWiC resource Web-based and evaluating the utility of the online resource in clinical practice.
Background: Interactive systems are being developed with the intention to help in the engagement of patients on various therapies. Amid the recent technological advances, Kinect™ from Microsoft (Redmond, WA) has helped pave the way on how user interaction technology facilitates and complements many clinical applications. In order to examine the actual status of Kinect developments for rehabilitation, this article presents a systematic review of articles that involve interactive, evaluative, and technical advances related to motor rehabilitation.
Materials and Methods: Systematic research was performed in the IEEE Xplore and PubMed databases using the key word combination “Kinect AND rehabilitation” with the following inclusion criteria: (1) English language, (2) page number >4, (3) Kinect system for assistive interaction or clinical evaluation, or (4) Kinect system for improvement or evaluation of the sensor tracking or movement recognition. Quality assessment was performed by QualSyst standards.
Results: In total, 109 articles were found in the database research, from which 31 were included in the review: 13 were focused on the development of assistive systems for rehabilitation, 3 in evaluation, 3 in the applicability category, 7 on validation of Kinect anatomic and clinical evaluation, and 5 on improvement techniques. Quality analysis of all included articles is also presented with their respective QualSyst checklist scores.
Conclusions: Research and development possibilities and future works with the Kinect for rehabilitation application are extensive. Methodological improvements when performing studies on this area need to be further investigated.
The patient pictured above is playing a game on Microsoft Kinect where she’s paddling and steering down a river, swatting bats inside a cave, grabbing things out of the river and catching parachutes of supplies. She’s had a stroke and, as a result, has impaired motor function in her right hand.
The game she’s playing was developed by a team of clinicians, computer scientists, an electrical engineer and a biomechanist at Ohio State University as a way to bring costly constraint-induced movement therapy into a stroke survivor’s home.
…Stroke Recovery with Kinect is an interactive rehabilitation system prototype that helps stroke patients improve their upper-limb motor functioning in the comfort of their own home. By using Microsoft Kinect technology, this prototype system recognizes and interprets the user’s gestures, assesses their rehabilitation progress, and adjusts the level of difficulty for subsequent therapy sessions…
…”The Microsoft researchers remain excited about the possibilities of using Kinect to improve the healthcare field. “These patients have suffered paralyzing effects of strokes and we can see the potential of a gesture technology, like Kinect, providing an easy and cost-effective way to help get these people back on their feet. The opportunities for this prototype are exciting and we look forward to seeing where this research takes us.”…