Games help stroke victims regain motor functions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am


A bird flies past the tram window, dropping a white, liquid deposit on the glass with a splat. Dr Raymond Tong Kai-yu takes a sponge and wipes away the mess, revealing the signs and awnings of a typical Hong Kong street scene rolling by.

Tong is playing Good View Hunting, a new game developed by Hong Kong Polytechnic University to help stroke patients regain their motor functions. It uses existing gaming technology such as Kinect, a motion-sensing device built by Microsoft for the Xbox 360, and is aimed at bringing a degree of entertainment to therapy sessions that can be tedious.

'I play with my husband, and feel like it's good for me too,' said 65-year-old Shek Soon Hing. Li Tse-hing had a stroke 13 years ago. The couple have had six hour-long sessions with the game so far, and while it is too early to say whether it has made any difference for Li, whose left side is paralysed and has spent years reteaching his muscles to work.

He said he wished something like this game had been around earlier. 'It would have sped up my recovery,' he said

The game, and others like it, encourage repeated motions at specific angles and heights, with more points awarded for greater accuracy in the trajectory of arms, legs, upper body and even hips. Software monitors any improvement or deterioration.

'It's more fun than lifting sandbags,' said Tong, a biomedical engineer who has been working with stroke patients and developing tools to help them at Tung Wah and Sha Tin hospitals for more than six years.

Another patient, Sam Chick Kin-sing has noticed an improvement. 'I feel like my balance is getting better.'