Glove-Based Technology in Hand Rehabilitation

Glove-Based Technology in Hand Rehabilitation

Jamie Taylor (School of Computing and Intelligent Systems, University of Ulster, Londonderry, Northern Ireland) and Kevin Curran (School of Computing and Intelligent Systems, University of Ulster, Londonderry, Northern Ireland)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/ijide.2015010103


Injuries to the hand are more common than those of any other body region and can have considerable financial, time-measured and psychological impact on not only the victim but the community as a whole. Hand rehabilitation aims to return people to their pre-injury roles and occupations and has proved largely successful in doing so with the potential for technology to improve these results further. However, most technology used in hand rehabilitation is based on expensive and non-durable glove-based systems and issues with accuracy are common among those which are not glove-based. The authors outline an accurate, affordable and portable solution wherein the authors use the Leap Motion as a tool for hand rehabilitation. User feedback will be given primarily through an animated 3d hand model as the user performs rehabilitative exercises. Exercise results will be recorded for later viewing by patients and clinicians. The system will also include Gamification aspects, techniques which (while proven to increase participation) have seen little to no use in hand-rehabilitation systems.
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1. Introduction

The human hand is one of the most complex creations in existence and the main enabler of our modern lifestyles. Given this intense and extensive use, it should come as little surprise that injuries to the hand are more common than those of any other body region (Trybus, et al., 2006). Injuries such as Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI’s), lacerations and crushing are just a few common injuries to hand. Such injuries are treated through hand rehabilitation (Amini, 2011). This includes measures such as splinting the hand and prescribing rehabilitation exercises designed to strengthen the muscles in the hand and prevent build-up of scar tissue which would otherwise affect joint movement. Individuals who find themselves afflicted with these kinds of injuries can experience great emotional and psychological since an injury to our hands can threaten our independence and normality in a way few things can. This process is not only time-consuming and costly for the person injured; in the UK, over £100 million is spent every year treating these kinds of injuries (Dias & Garcia-Elias, 2006). Current rehabilitation is largely analogue, with no technological intervention, primarily due to cost. Data gloves, the most common technological rehabilitation aid, can potentially cost thousands of pounds (O'Donnell, 2010). There is a clear need for something accurate, portable and affordable.

At present, it is common for individuals with hand injuries to undergo rehabilitation using no technical aids. Efforts to improve rehabilitation through the use of technology have led to a number of systems being proposed, these systems are most glove-based, with few alternatives. These glove-based systems are (for the most part) prohibitively expensive (O'Donnell, 2010) and the few alternatives such as Kinect (Bond, 2011) can suffer from portability and accuracy issues. It should also be noted that none of these system take advantage of gamification. Gamification is the use of game-like elements in traditionally non-game like settings and has been proven to increase user enjoyment and participation.

This paper outlines the design and development of a software based system for hand rehabilitation using the Leap Motion. The Leap Motion is a recently released motion-based device which has yet to be investigated as a tool for hand rehabilitation. User feedback comes primarily from an animated 3d hand model which will reflect the users hand movements in real-time. The results from the exercises are stored for later viewing by either the patient or a clinician. Furthermore, the project uses gamification elements to better encouraging patients to adhere to prescribed exercise programs.

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