New Kinect controller could be a game-changer for Parkinson's

Scientists at Brunel University London have turned Microsoft's Kinect computer games controller into a system that lets Parkinson’s sufferers counter two of the most common and distressing symptoms of the degenerative disease.

Dr Konstantinos Banitsas and PhD candidate Amin Amini Maghsoud Bigy developed the system that will link Kinect to a ceiling mounted laser, which will aid patients afflicted by freezing of gait (FOG).

FOG patients suffer sudden muscles freeze where they are left unable to move or even stand up simply fall over. To combat this, previous research shows that giving visual clues such as projecting lines ahead on the floor to FOG patients “unfreezes” the person's muscles through an equipment that must be worn by patients.

Through the new system, which can be installed into a patient’s own home, visual lines will be prompted when the software detects a FOG incident. In addition, if a patient falls, the system will automatically trigger a video conferencing call.

“By mounting the laser guide marker on the ceiling it can provide the visual clues in any direction. And it is only activated when a FOG incident occurs instead of having to be worn constantly," Dr. Banitsas said.

“The system has already passed proof of concept stage and we will shortly begin patient trials.”