Romanian students developed a software that can make a crucial contribution to improving the life quality of those suffering from temporary disabilities.
Cosmin Mihaiu, Alina Călin, Andrei Cantea and Liviu-Andrei Dascălu jointly created a software which can make a crucial contribution to improving the life quality for those suffering from temporary disabilities and are currently in a recovery period. In 2011, when they were still medical students in Cluj, central Romania, the four enlisted in the Microsoft-organized competition, “ Imagine Cup”. The theme of the competition which was open to students worldwide was “Imagine a world where technology contributes to finding solutions to the most difficult problems”. Cosmin Mihaiu recalled a rather sad period in his life: he broke his arm when he was 7 and had to go through a long and painful recovery period. With the still vivid and painful memory of the kinetotherapy exercises he had do, Cosmin suggested to his colleagues that they get together and find a method to turn the medical recovery period into an easier and more efficient experience, for patients and MDs alike.
How can we do that? Helping patients to stop thinking about their pain, shifting the focus on something else, Cosmin Mihaiu told us.
” Medical recovery can be done on a daily basis. What we wanted to do was to offer patients a better experience, which is at once more pleasant and easier, when they have to do the recovery exercises. Video games looked like they were the best alternative to traditional exercises. As they are interactive, the patient does not necessarily focus on the recovery process as such, but on the purpose of the game, and thus he can forget the pain or other unpleasant things, thanks to the exercises he is doing. The biggest problem in kinetotherapy is that patients do not do their exercises at home because of the pain or the difficulties posed by those exercises. We wanted to offer an easier way of recovery which is at once easier and more interactive, so that they can do the series of exercises the doctor had prescribed, so that they could recover faster. “
The acronym for the software the four colleagues created is MIRA: Medical Recovery Interactive Assistant. The project was short-listed for the Imagine Cup final: the jury received it very favorably, which strengthened the four people’ s confidence it was well worth investing in the project. The four started to search for the prospective development of the project. How does MIRA work? There are a few computer games the patients play through the Kinect platform. Piano, Catch It, Airplanes, Touch It, Kick It…All of them are based on the occupational therapy principle, according to which the patient must receive constant feedback, so that his progress can be monitored and analyzed. Cosmin Mihaiu again:
” When the patient plays the game, the program records the data the kinetotherapist or the physician may need, so that he can monitor the patients’ progress during the recovery period. Data includes classical measurements, speed, acceleration, the distance a patient covers with a limb, or even the points he makes while playing his games. All data enables the kinetotherapist to get a very clear picture of the patient’s progress. For example, Touch it was used at the suggestion of an expert who came up with the idea of a game by means of which we can persuade the user to touch certain areas of his body, the head for instance, as in everyday life every man should be able to take his hand to his mouth so that he can feed himself, or for hygiene purposes. With the Kinect device, we can detect if the user can really take his hand that far. The game has a very simple format: a butterfly flies around the patient and lands on certain parts of the patient’s body and the patient must be able to touch that area.
MIRA has two versions: the home version and the hospital version. The differences are strictly connected to the information registered while the soft is used.
“ MIRA Clinic includes the games we created, as well as the additional tools we offer physicians and kinetotherapists, so that the patient’s treatment can be personalized. Specifically, it is an application by means of which the specialist can create his own series of exercises the patients will have to do. Furthermore, the application posts all patients’ results during the recovery period. The home version includes only the games. It does not have so much information which only specialists need; while patients are playing the game at home all stored and registered data is transmitted to the kinetotherapist or the physician, so that he can monitor the patent’s progress. At the moment we’re testing the program in hospital and institutions as we want to see what the specialists’ and the patients’ opinion. The feedback is very good. Obviously, the application is still in the making and we’ve received some very helpful advice as to how we can improve it and how the experiences we offer can be more pleasant; by and large everybody thinks highly about how the application looks like and works. “
Just like any video game of a certain standing, the MIRA games have their own scores, rankings, rewards. But the best reward is that the patient’s mind gets carried away with the game, dictating the body to make those specific moves it badly needs to totally recover its functional capacity.
The idea of the MIRA software was also considered valuable by the organizers of a London-based medical project Incubator, HealthBox Europe, Cosmin Mihaiu tells us more.
“It is a three month intensive program, during which exercises and an introduction to the medical industry are being made. Given that the program is unfolding in London, we’ve decided to start a business there. My colleagues are now in Romania, having responsibilities relating to technical development and the relationships with Romania. My goal in Great Britain is to develop a business with our partners there. MIRA is already being used by one of the biggest hospitals in London, as well as outside the British capital, in Manchester. Our application will soon be finalized and we hope to have customers, to pay for both versions, in the first half of the year. We want to improve this software and bring it to an advanced stage, to benefit patients, users and specialists alike.”
The initiators of the software hope to include games focusing on logopedics in the near future. Further details on MIRA are available at the following address: www.mirarehab.com