video game controller; photo by javier martinez via unsplash

Healthcare at Play: Project Uses Gaming to Treat Arthritis

August 24, 2021

Students in CU Denver’s College of Engineering, Design and Computing developed a project titled “Healthcare at Play,” which seeks to help arthritis patients through video gaming. Trevor Libby, Nicholas Wilde, Linh Phuong Lam, Faisal Aldaihani, Burak Toklu, and Mauricio Millan-Carlos created a device to encourage people with arthritis in their hands to perform exercises. Sponsored by TIBCO Software, Inc, the project seeks to make exercising fun.

In this video, engineering students explain how the project and its software works to treat osteoarthritis.

Glove Prototype Uses Spotfire Software

While there are many forms of arthritis and hand conditions, the students focused on osteoarthritis, designing a device to gather measurable data in the form of flexibility, position, and/or force exertion. In order to make exercising and recovery engaging, the students used video games to motivate arthritis patients to work out their hands, primarily fingers, without repeating boring exercises. Hand exercises are very important, because our hands are used for activities of daily life ,and they can be damaged from poor ergonomics, repetitive tasks, and aging.

Faculty advisors Dan Jensen and Jeffrey Selman helped students design a glove prototype with varying sensors. The different types of sensors tested included force-sensing resistors (FSR), flex sensors, and hall-effect sensors. A combination of flex sensors and linear hall-effect sensors offered the most promising results.

glove prototype
Glove prototype developed by engineering students

The sensors’ data is sent to an Arduino placed within a wearable 3D-printed housing, which is then sent to a computer that displays the game with its accompanying prompts. After a game is complete, the signal data from these sensors can be saved in a format to be sent to TIBCO’s Spotfire software for analysis and a visual report. With enough data and repeated use, Spotfire can help pinpoint any patterns or can be used to suggest areas of improvement that users may need.

An interdisciplinary project combining electrical and mechanical engineering, Healthcare at Play also benefitted from industry collaboration with TIBCO, a software and enterprise data company headquartered in Palo Alto, California.