Game tech would benefit stroke patients

Stroke victims could save travelling hundreds of miles to hospital physio appointments thanks to a series of games designed by students at a Cork college.

Game tech would benefit stroke patients

They were developed with the help of medical professionals and recovering stroke patients to replicate the kind of arm exercises recommended as part of the rehabilitation process.

It earned Paul Shannon, Mark Fitzsimons, and Ronan De Lacy the Cork Institute of Technology Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

They scooped the €4,000 top prize yesterday. The three are final-year students in CIT’s multimedia communications degree course.

The project could now be rolled out to hospitals and clinics worldwide after more development work on campus over the next year.

“Two of the three patients who have trialled it were delighted, one wanted to know how soon it’s available to have at home,” said Paul, a 40-year-old student from Ballineen in West Cork.

The group’s MAPR software is designed for use with the Microsoft Kinect device that uses virtual reality technology. Among the problems some patients have after a stroke are weakened arms and legs, but the arms are often worked on only after the initial focus on mobility and discharge from hospital.

“In one game, a player uses their arm to move a helicopter and they have to rescue people by picking them up from the ground. Another is like the early arcade games, in which the patient’s arm is used to control a bat at the bottom of the screen deflecting a ball to hit bricks at the top,” said Paul.

The Irish Heart Foundation has said investment in community rehabilitation services for the country’s 50,000 stroke survivors could save the State millions of euro a year.

“Hopefully, with the right advice from their physiotherapists, patients could avoid having to make regular trips to hospitals by playing these games instead. And the physio might also be able to track their progress, as rising scores would reflect improving mobility,” said Paul.

Along with Mark from Waterford and Ronan from Watergrasshill, he will be working with CIT’s Rubicon Centre and the college’s entrepreneur in residence Kieran Moynihan on further developing the project.

Other winners yesterday included IT management students Robert Gabriel and Tadhg Foley for their Project Bird software studio, and the best business plan for a group of culinary arts students and their Scratch My Pork hand-cooked snack. More than 30 projects were entered for the competition, sponsored by the Cork County and City Enterprise Boards.

Olympic race walker Olive Loughnane made an address at the prize ceremony.

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