Creating a Therapeutic Game for the Elderly With Remote Monitoring for Caregivers Using NI LabVIEW

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"We combined LabVIEW with low-cost hardware to successfully create a system to enhance the therapeutic activities of the elderly in a home environment. The intuitive LabVIEW programming simplified hardware integration and saved us valuable development time."

- Chee Teck Phua, Nanyang Polytechnic

The Challenge:
Developing a therapeutic game for the elderly with customizable user interactions and automated email notifications for caregiver monitoring of physical and mental activities.

The Solution:
Using NI LabVIEW to create a squash game with a sensor tracking the motion of the elderly person’s arm, brain activity monitoring, and options to vary the size and speed of the ball.

Author(s):
Chee Teck Phua - Nanyang Polytechnic
Boon Chong Gooi - Nanyang Polytechnic

As in many developed countries, one of Singapore’s key challenges includes an aging population. There is an emerging need to promote therapeutic activities among the elderly for active aging [1]. One such activity is electronics gaming, which integrates physical and mental exercise. However, commercially available games are typically designed for general users and lack the features to customize to the needs of the elderly and provide feedback to caregivers [2].

We created a gaming application to enhance the therapeutic activities of the elderly through electronic gaming to maintain or increase their motor and cognitive capabilities. Based on the findings by Rego, et al. [2], this game aims to fulfill seven of the eight areas of recommended focus for elderly people:

  1. Purpose—Therapeutic enhancement of physical and cognitive activities
  2. User interaction—User interacts with game using physical arm movement
  3. Dimension of game—2D interfaces minimize elderly confusion
  4. Single-player to multiplayer—Single-player squash game is expandable to two-player pong game
  5. Adaptable challenge—User-selectable speed and size of ball based on performance
  6. Elderly knowing their progress—Ability to track progress of physical and cognitive performance
  7. Progress monitoring—Assistance for caregivers by monitoring progressive changes in performance via email

System Overview

The game we created engages the elderly in therapeutic activities while assessing their physical and neural activities. We developed a 2D bouncing ball squash game with a customizable user interface (see Figure 1). The system hardware provides the user interface and collects the neural activity for processing. The software system receives the data from the hardware and provides a fun, enjoyable environment for the game. In addition, the caregivers and users can monitor progressive improvement with the system.

System Hardware

One of the game’s key hardware components is the Silicon Labs tracking sensor. This is one of the industry’s most sensitive active infrared proximity sensor ICs for innovative touchless human interface applications with ultralow power usage advantages. Using the development kit with a USB interface, this sensor tracks the lateral motion of the arm to monitor physical therapeutic effects (see Figure 2). The system communicates the output of this sensor to LabVIEW via the USB port. The efficacy and accuracy of the sensor in tracking the arm gives the user an enhanced experience while playing the game.

The second key hardware component is the NeuroSky MindWave sensor. This is an affordable, portable, and wireless brainwave measuring device designed to filter out ambient waves present in most uncontrolled conditions and effectively measure neural activity in virtually any condition, with 96 percent accuracy compared to similarly configured research-grade electroencephalograms. Using the unique advantages of the Mindwave sensor, the system can measure and store the brainwaves representing concentration level during the game (see Figure 3).

System Software

LabVIEW, the main software component of the game, offers an intuitive graphical system design interface with built-in engineering-specific libraries of software functions and hardware interfaces along with data analysis, visualization, and sharing features. Using these unique advantages, we developed the bouncing ball game in LabVIEW with the main objective of an intuitive user interface. The user can set the system to automatically choose the challenges of the game, or the user can manually change the speed and size of the ball (see Figure 4). The system captures, stores, and communicates the changes to caregivers to support progressive monitoring.

Along with the game’s challenge selections, the system periodically changes the background picture and music to excite the neural activities of the user to promote a healthy mental state (see Figure 4).

When the user finishes playing the game, the system captures and stores the maximum speed and size of the ball, along with the concentration peak of the user, and sends them via email to the caregiver (see Figure 5). The captured and stored data helps the user and caregivers track the progress and achievements of playing the game.

Conclusion

We combined LabVIEW with low-cost hardware to successfully create a system to enhance the therapeutic activities of the elderly in a home environment. The intuitive LabVIEW programming simplified hardware integration and saved us valuable development time.

Future Work

We plan to test the game in Singapore’s elderly community and collect feedback to enhance the user experience. With these enhancements, we aim to deploy the game in the homes of the elderly to promote and monitor their therapeutic activities.

Acknowledgement

The authors would like to express gratitude to the School of Engineering at Nanyang Polytechnic (Singapore) for its support of this development and use of facilities that made this work possible. In addition, the authors would like to acknowledge the LabVIEW programming contributions to this project made by final-year project students from the Diploma of Electronics, Computer, and Communications Engineering at Nanyang Polytechnic.

References:

[1] Kato, Pamela M., “Video Games in Health Care: Closing the Gap,” Review of General Psychology 2010, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 113–12.

[2] Rego, P., P. M. Moreira, and L. P. Reis, "Serious games for rehabilitation: A survey and a classification towards a taxonomy," in Information Systems and Technologies (CISTI), 2010 5th Iberian Conference on, 2010, pp. 1–6.

Author Information:
Chee Teck Phua
Nanyang Polytechnic
180 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8
569830
Singapore
Tel: 98277636
Fax: 65500400
Phua_chee_teck@nyp.gov.sg

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