Wii console could help stroke victims, say scientists -

Motion sensing technology, such as the Wii could be to help people with aphasia.

The condition is a language impairment, commonly caused by a stroke, that affects around 250,000 people in the UK. It is thought that technology such as the Wii will help people with this condition learn how to ‘gesture’ independently at home.

Gestures that can be readily interpreted by others are often advocated in aphasia treatment, but can be difficult for aphasic people to learn, because they have additional stroke-related disabilities, such as one sided paralysis. Gesturing can be improved through therapy, but one-to-one sessions can be costly and therapy resources are scarce.

Scientists at City University London are working with the Stroke Association and have been given £300k from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).They want to see if they can develop an affordable computer-based technology to help stroke survivors independently at home.

The project will create a prototype system that enables users to practise gesturing, receive instant feedback, and master the movements through repetition. It will be run by a multi-disciplinary team from City's Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design (HCID), and Department of Language and Communication Science.

Jane Marshall, Professor of Aphasiology at City University London, said: "Computer-based treatments have been shown to improve verbal language skills in previous studies, but this is the first time that gestures will be addressed. With 45,000 new cases in the UK each year, we hope that our work will help a wider range of aphasic people to regain communication skills."

The project – known as Gesture Recognition in Aphasia Therapy (GReAT) – will run for 18 months. It plans to test the prototype via 30 of the Stroke Association’s Stroke Clubs in the London area.

Volunteers will use the system, explore its capabilities and report back to the project team, while workshops for aphasia therapists will explain how the system works and its potential benefits. People with aphasia will also be employed as consultants during the development of the technology, to ensure that it is fit for purpose.