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New video games to help stroke sufferers

University of Ulster researchers have been carrying out specially designed computer games trials to help rehabilitate stroke sufferers.

The Games for Rehabilitation project, funded by the Department of Employment and Learning over three years, focuses on rehabilitation of the upper limbs and involves the player using their hands to touch moving targets.

Movements are tracked by a webcam and the game responds to patients' interaction, giving them feedback on their performance and engagement with the system.

Coleraine-based School of - Computing and Information Engineering has collaborated on the project with fellow researchers at the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the Jordanstown campus.

Researcher James Burke, a PhD computing student, said: "We have taken this one step further by applying the principles of game design in order to improve user engagement. Video games offer exciting rehabilitation potential.

"The team is working on realising this potential for engagement and applying it to stroke rehabilitation where patients often struggle to engage with therapy, due to its mundane and repetitive nature."

Mr Burke recently gave presentations on the team's work at the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Annual Scientific Research Conference in Belfast.

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Initial feedback from the trials has been very positive, according to Dr Michael McNeill from the School of Computing and Information Engineering.

Dr Jacqui Crosbie, from the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Institute, said: "An advantage of having an interdisciplinary team of researchers across health sciences and computing means that we can design computer games specifically for stroke rehabilitation.

"A feature of the games is that they are designed to work with standard computer hardware, enabling them to be played in the home".