Augmented reality for stroke

A blueberry-loving kiwi called Fizzy could soon be an unlikely personal trainer for recovering stroke survivors.

Fizzy is the star of an augmented reality 3-D “exergame” invented by Wellington technology whizz Regan Petrie, specifically to help stroke survivors’ rehabilitation.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with stroke patients, it’s been really interesting and challenging,” Regan says.

Using a phone installed with the game, and a handset designed and manufactured with a 3D printer, players throw blueberries around the room for cartoon kiwi Fizzy to find. You can watch it here .

In doing so, the stroke survivor stands up to throw the berries, and sits down to collect more from an augmented reality bucket – encouraging and rewarding movement that’s crucial to recovery but which can be hard to motivate in stroke survivors.

You can read a story on Stuff here.

The game is similar to the hugely popular Pokemon Go game that swept the world two years ago, and can be played anywhere.

Regan has worked with physiotherapists and stroke survivors while developing the game and received very positive feedback.

Here’s what stroke survivor Caroline had to say: “I love this. I want to get 300 points. . . . 300 woohoo! Oh my goodness, what an improvement, this is fantastic. . . . I will do sit-to-stand three times a day, four times a week.

The exercise classes are dreadfully boring as you can’t see the immediate effect of what you are doing, even though they are so challenging. Something like this where you can actually sit by your bed and do it on your own and feel a sense of achievement as your success is almost immediate. . . . I could see there being a lot of opportunity in rehab for something like this.”

Screen of AR game

Nine thousand New Zealanders have a stroke each year – and six million people around the world die from stroke.

Many of those who survive have restricted movement, and physical rehabilitation is often painful, difficult and under-resourced.

Regan says more than two-thirds of survivors might not be getting the recommended level of rehab activities.

So he developed his game – called NZ Fauna AR - for his thesis at Victoria University.

Regan and Fizzy

Regan Petrie and 'Fizzy"

Regan hopes to create two more versions of the game featuring a tuatara for stepping exercises, and a yellow-eyed penguin for walking exercises.

“The potential for this sort of rehabilitation for stroke survivors is huge,” Regan says.

Stroke Foundation CEO Mark Vivian says technology could play an increasing role in stroke rehab.

“Motivation and variety can be real challenges to stroke survivors, but AR and VR could unlock a treasure trove of tools to aid with recovery,” he says.

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