Apple iPad, Nintendo Wii Can Help Stroke Victims Communicate

The City University London and The Stroke Association are developing motion-sensor technologies to help stroke victims communicate using the Nintendo Wii and Apple iPad.

Two groups in the United Kingdom, City University London and The Stroke Association advocacy group, are testing computer-based technology running on the Nintendo Wii and Apple iPad to allow stroke victims suffering from the aphasia language impediment to communicate using gestures.

The project is called Gesture Recognition in Aphasia Therapy (GReAT) and will run for 18 months, according to City University London. The parties will test the prototype in the London area via 30 of The Stroke Association's Stroke Clubs.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a U.K. government agency for funding research, is contributing financial support for the project.

"Gesture tracking and recognition technologies are becoming a ubiquitous part of new computing and gaming environments, ranging from Apple's touch-screen iPad through the handheld Nintendo Wii Remote to Microsoft's forthcoming Kinect for the Xbox 360, which will track users' movements without the need for a handheld controller," Stephanie Wilson, senior lecturer in HCID at City University London, said in a statement.

"Whilst popular in gaming, we will evaluate the suitability of such technologies in aphasia rehabilitation," Wilson added.

City University London and The Stroke Association both announced the new project on Aug. 19.

Computer-based therapy has been proven to rehabilitate verbal skills, and this is the first breakthrough for such gestures, according to Jane Marshall, professor of aphasiology at City University London.

"With 45,000 new cases in the U.K. each year, we hope that our work will help a wider range of aphasic people to regain communication skills," Marshall said in a statement.

Dr. Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at The Stroke Association, added that communication problems are the most frustrating for stroke survivors. Ahmed noted that 150,000 people have a stroke in the U.K. every year.

About half of the people who suffer from aphasia temporarily do recover completely and quickly, reports Aphasia Now. An estimated 250,000 people in the U.K. suffer from permanent aphasia.

Stroke survivors often have limited spoken or written output, and learn how to gesture independently at home.

Patients taking part in the project will practice gesturing, have access to immediate feedback and develop mastery of the movements through repetition.