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Video Game Feedback May Help The Injured Heal

NEW YORK, Dec. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Video gamers have long been familiar with the thrill of force feedback—the technology that allows players to feel the rumble of a racecar hitting a virtual road or sense the weight of wielding an on-screen sword.  A team of researchers from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and Sapienza University of Rome have now published findings showing that force feedback is much more than fun. Combined with science learning in a therapeutic setting, it may even be healing.

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A paper in the journal PLOS ONE details the experiments devised and performed by NYU-Poly's Maurizio Porfiri, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Oded Nov, associate professor of technology management and innovation, along with Professor Paolo Cappa, an NYU-Poly affiliated faculty member, and visiting master student Andrea Clerico of Sapienza University of Rome.

The use of robotic machines in physical therapy and rehabilitation has been evolving for more than two decades. So-called robot-mediated therapy (RMT) is viewed as too costly or complicated to implement in many care settings.  However, haptic devices—those that provide tactile or force feedback—have become less expensive and are now integrated into gaming joysticks, personal computers, mobile devices, and other everyday technologies. The researchers wanted to test the utility of these haptic devices in physical rehabilitation. In a novel twist, they also incorporated science education elements into the experimental tasks to gauge if such content increased participants' engagement with the exercises.

The team devised a series of experiments on 48 healthy test subjects to determine if force feedback delivered through a readily available, low-cost haptic gaming joystick would positively impact participants' ability to complete on-screen tasks.

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