Accessorized Therapeutic Game Experiences for Tablets

Alex Restrepo, Jonathan Engelsma, Thomas Parker and John Farris


In the world of physical therapy, a number of consumer gaming devices have been used with various levels of success. Most commercially available video games are designed for the general population and are, in most cases, overwhelming and difficult for traumatic brain injury (TBI) or stroke patients to use. Specialized therapeutic medical devices are not only expensive and non-portable, they also make limited use of gamification techniques to better engage and motivate the patient. This paper examines the use of inexpensive, portable handheld devices, together with a custom sensor accessory in order to drive a set of therapist designed and configured, short video games. Games have been designed that are intended to elicit specific therapeutic movements from the patient, are customizable by the therapist for a given patient's needs, and also produce clinical output for the therapists to use. The games have been evaluated in clinics by physical therapists who treat TBI patients, and the results indicate our approach addresses the shortcomings therapists have experienced with prior attempts at gamification in physical therapy. Moreover, game controllability by the therapist has been identified as a key component in successfully gamifying treatment of TBI patients as it allows the therapist to customize the game experience to suit a patient's individual needs.