Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center
Technology for Children with Orthopedic Disabilities

New Jersey Institute of Technology
Children's Specialized Hospital
Rutgers University

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Virtual Reality Rehabilitation and Recreation

Image of VR game and color markersActivities common to growing children may become difficultor impossible when faced with overcoming an orthopedicdisability. Playing video games is one such activity which isnot purely recreational, but also has implications inresearch and rehabilitation (Miller, F. & Bachrach, S. 1998).

The video game platform contains games withprogrammable graphics objects. Each game piecebehaves in a preprogrammed fashion, following specifiedrules. These rules may alter movement pattern, changingshape, color or size and even disappearing altogether.Each game piece is capable of assessing its environmentand calculating its distance from the nearest object in aspecified direction.

The userís input is based on analysis of snapshots from astandard webcam. A color detection algorithm for redgreen and blue markers has been developed to act as theuserís input. A colored marker can be anything the childcan grasp, wear or attach to themselves like colored tapeor a Velcro band.

Design and Development
- Offers flexibility in game characteristics and features.
- Development of a digital download site for open source adaptive video game system
- Use of color detection instead of body shape recognition allows more non traditional gesture setsto achieve success in a game.
- Code uses open source functions in MATLAB programming language.
- Offers an unconventional teaching tool to complement an introduction to assistive technology.

Current Work and Evaluation
Platform Development:
- Creating graphical user interface to assistusers in developing a new video game. Gameproperties include: quantity of players andgame objects allowed, game pieceappearance (shape, size, color, andorientation), speed and trajectory of gamepieces, sound effects, interaction behaviorbetween each type of game piece, and gamename for future recall
- Transforming the 2-d graphics into a 3-dVRML environment for more advancedanimation
- Detailed textured 3-d gaming graphics fortransformed into 2-d for software operation

Usability Studies:
- Understanding how usable all prospectiveuser groups find our software
- Prospective user groups include: childrenwith orthopedic disabilities and therapists,parents, siblings, and friends of children withorthopedic disabilities
- Two AT workshops for middle schoolstudents representing the age range of ourtarget population. October 2007 and May2008.
- Pilot studies with therapists and children withorthopedic disabilities to test the feasibility andusability of our gaming system by children withorthopedic disabilities and investigate whetherthe games can be used for therapeutictreatment in clinical settings. Summer 2008

Examples:
Soccer
In the first of the 3-d games, the white ball advancestowards the player who must catch or block the ball with oneof the two hands on the screen. The background picturemay be replaced for a suitably themed animation sequence,or eliminated if thought to be too distracting for some users.Velocity and locations of the advancing balls are among thecustomizable features.

Explodin Colors
ĎExplodin Colorsí is a game designed by one group of studentsat the Liberty Science Center Camp. This game was designedfor a player with quadriplegic spinal cord injury. Both hand iconsmove under the command of the same blue marker and whenthe blue hand icons make contact with the other game pieces anapplause is heard and the game pieces disappear. Thenon-hand game pieces are mobile, moving at a lower speed andthey bounce off the walls to stay in the field of play. As the gamepieces collide with each other, they increase in size, makingsuccess in the game more easily achieved.

Images of logos: New Jersey Institute of TechnologyImages of logos: Children's Specialized HospitalImages of logos: Rutgers University

This Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, Grant H133E050011-06, is funded by the
National Institute on Disabilities and Rehabilitation Research.

Copyright © 2007 New Jersey Institute of Technology
University Heights, Newark, New Jersey 07102-9895 (973) 596-3000