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With help from The Corridor Council’s Matching Grants Research Program, scientists at Design Interactive and the University of South Florida (USF) Health School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences are enabling greater mobility for amputees.

Often referred to as “bionic” limbs, myoelectric prostheses are powered by electromyography, the electrical activity of an amputee’s muscles and the nerves that control their movement. According to Design Interactive’s Chief Scientist Brett Winslow, modern methods used to train amputees how to use the prosthesis is usually difficult, boring and requires expensive equipment that is not easily accessible. These challenges cause some users to opt for a different type of prosthetic without as much functionality, or to abandon the technology altogether.

Alternatively, Design Interactive is working with USF to refine a game-based rehabilitation system that empowers users to advance their muscle control while having fun. The company’s Auto Diagnostic Adaptive Precision Training for Myoelectric Prosthesis Users combines a mobile application and wearable device to train users through a series of four games with varying levels of difficulty. As users become stronger, they progress from basic muscle control and activation exercises in “Volcanic Crush” to the more intensive strength-training exercises of “Dino Claw.”

Each user’s performance data is stored in a secure cloud server, allowing quick and easy access by users and their care providers to evaluate progress and customize training plans. Unlike traditional methods, the game allows patients to begin training months before receiving their prosthesis – ultimately, speeding up the time it takes to adapt to the bionic limb and return to a higher quality of life.

Design Interactive is exploring partnerships with Nintendo and Microsoft in hopes of bringing its mobile games to new platforms. Both companies already maintain a suite of games and nontraditional controllers made for gamers with limb differences, Winslow explained, which would help them increase accessibility beyond the amputee population to others with a need to enhance motor function and muscle training.

“To achieve the level of success we’re aiming for, we knew that we needed USF as our partners and The Corridor Council’s MGRP funds made the partnership possible,” said Winslow.

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