Between the early 1980s and mid-90s, the United States government began examining how technology could be utilized to help those with disabilities live more independently.  At the time, the idea of assistive technology was in its infancy and, therefore, was predominantly based on what technology could do for individuals with disabilities in the educational system.  Fortunately, Congress felt that it was necessary to implement a requirement for specific technologies in a learning environment to accommodate students with disabilities.  Therefore, the United States Congress passed the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals Act, or the Tech Act (Edyburn 4). In addition to the Tech Act, Congress passed the Americans with Disability Act in 1990, followed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments in 1997 (Edyburn 5).  Undoubtedly, the efforts of the congressmen and women who pass those monumental acts were responsible for opening the floodgates as to how technology could be utilized in the ways of assisting and giving equal opportunity to those who are challenged with disabilities.  However, it must also be noted that a person’s disability does not only affect their life academically, it affects them physically and emotionally as well.  Additionally, the aforementioned acts were developed with traditional assistive technology and therapeutic techniques in mind.  Most traditional forms of assistive technology are costly and may not be covered the by patient’s medical insurance company.  Therefore, less costly alternatives to technology should be examined. This will provide those who may not be able to afford the expenses of traditional assistive technology a chance to rehabilitate themselves and live as independently as possible.

Using a PlayStation® 3 (PS3) video game console as a medium, this essay will use medium analysis to show to show the benefits of utilizing this game console as a rehabilitative device.  Moreover, the analysis will examine how the software and hardware of the game console can be utilized for different therapeutic exercises and rehabilitation methods.  This analysis will also examine the feedback given from physical therapists as well as their patients, to gauge the effectiveness of the console in a therapy session.  Ultimately, the purpose of this analysis is to show how a PlayStation® 3 video game console can be utilized as an alternative and less costly device in the process of rehabilitation.

As a disabled person, I can say with confidence that my PS3 has been a miracle device for me in terms of physical therapy.   I believe my game console is a successful therapeutic tool because it forces me to use muscles I would not regularly use.  When playing games, regardless of what device I’m using to control the game, I am stimulating my body mentally and physically.  When I am playing games, I am exercising whether I am leading a VIP to the extracting LZ, leaping from platform to platform to get to the final boss, or staying up until 2 AM in the morning to get a platinum trophy that does not really exist. For me, the combination of exercising and accomplishing something without help makes me feel as if I am transferred to a world where my disability does not define me.  When gaming, I am emerged in a world where the aspects of decorum and language are ever-changing as every situated gaming session is unique.  My positive experience from gaming has inspired me to conduct research to determine whether a PS3 could actually be used as a less costly device for physical therapy.

My research reveals that researchers have focused on the PlayStation® 3 video game console because of its high processing power and design quality, which allow developers to implement their own proprietary therapeutic hardware by using the console’s front USB ports (Huber et al. 106).  Blogger Tera Kirk explains that a PS3 video game console was used in a study on children diagnosed with hemiplegia cerebral palsy: a type of cerebral palsy which impairs fine motor movement in certain limbs (gamecritics.com 2008).  Kirk’s blog states that these children received physical therapy by using a PlayStation® 3 and a proprietary motion sensing device named the 5DT Ultra Glove which is a motion sensing glove specifically designed for hand strengthening exercises.  Kirk’s blog also refers to the study conducted by the University of Indiana, School of Medicine entitled “PlayStation 3-based Tele-rehabilitation for Children with Hemiplegia.”  Although I personally am diagnosed with mixed cerebral palsy, I can relate to the participants in this study because also I have difficulty using some of my limbs as well.  Moreover, I appreciate how the study examines the game console as a therapeutic device specifically in muscle strengthening.

Furthermore, I also appreciate how the researchers conducted the study. They used disabled teenagers diagnosed with hemiplegia cerebral palsy, which serves the purpose for giving the researchers an accurate insight into how disabled people would actually use the therapeutic device.  The University of Indiana, School of Medicine, instructed these disabled children to take a PlayStation home and participate in various therapeutic exercises. Using children that were actually disabled for the pilot study, allowed researchers to examine how a PS3 could be used to make tedious therapeutic exercises enjoyable.  Researchers used a database designed to monitor the activity of the participants using the PS3 by receiving quantitative data and SMS text messages.  They were hoping that by using their participants as test subjects the study would reveal an alternative to the expensive traditional devices used for rehabilitation exercises, which range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Additionally, the researchers hoped that disguising tedious therapeutic exercises as video games would be better accepted and tolerated by young children. (Huber et al 106). Using a Linux-based program which was compatible with the PS3, the researchers developed several different therapy-oriented applications that were specifically designed to strengthen fine motor functionality.  As a result, the researchers found that their “patients” also appreciated being in control of their exercises through choosing the games they wanted to play, as well as being able to change the difficulty settings of the exercise (Huber et al 108).

The therapeutic exercises in the study consisted of four separate game types.  The patient could choose to catch or flick away butterflies, slap or shoo away mosquitoes, or stop terrifying UFOs from attacking them.  The combination of the 5DT Ultra Glove, the unique Linux-based program, and the PS3 worked together in harmony to deliver several therapeutic exercises that were fun and rewarding for most of the patients.   Intriguingly, the decision monitor its paces participation shows that this medium can be an engaging and effective therapeutic tool. However, as with anything regarding electronics there were some technical issues that led to some unpleasant gaming experiences.  Fortunately, the researchers were able to solve these technical problems by keeping track of each PS3 on a central database.  Additionally, this database also served to examine the participation of each patient.  If the patient was practicing their exercises too much, or not enough a physical therapist would immediately be notified by an SMS text message on his or her cell phone (which could also be set up to alert the parents of the patient as well).  It should also be noted that not everyone was receptive to the rehabilitative exercises.  The article stated that the database revealed children might stop playing the therapeutic games because of frustration or hardware problems. The article revealed, “…[The] child [assigned to] PS3003 was initially enthusiastic, but then became frustrated with technical issues.  As a result, he decreased his participation.” (Huber et al 111).

Although the study conducted by the University of Indiana, School of Medicine had its technical drawbacks, for me, this study helps prove my argument that a PS3 can be used as a more affordable effective therapeutic device. The method in which the study was conducted spoke to me because the research proves that I was not alone in terms of thinking that a game console could be used in such a way.  Studies similar to the one previously mentioned have inspired first party developers from Sony, the company that owns the PlayStation® 3 video game console, to develop specific applications which are therapy-oriented.

Today, the PS3 retails for about $250, and the engineers from Sony have greatly improved the console’s software and hardware.  Currently, the PS3 has a first party application named Move.me.  Move.me makes it much simpler for developers to create software applications that are much less technically problematic than the applications used in the study conducted by the University of Indiana, School of Medicine.  Additionally, Sony has developed its own first party motion sensing device called the PlayStation® Move which retails for about $70.  Although the Move.me application retails for $100, the developers at Sony allow students and educators to use the application at no cost because the developers at Sony see the potential their application has for physical therapy (McCutchan 2011).

Although living with a disability is very difficult, I am thankful to live in a time where it is possible to have a PS3.  This device truly allows me to identify myself as a person who does not feel impaired by a disability.  Based on my own positive gaming experience in combination with the support given by Congress, and the studies conducted by the University of Indiana, School of Medicine can be concluded that a game console can be utilized to be an effective, motivational, and cost-effective therapeutic tool for all to enjoy.

 

Works Cited

Edyburn, Dave L. “Assistive Technology And Students With Mild Disabilities.” Focus On Exceptional Children 32.9 (2000): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

Fifth Dimension Technologies. 5DT Data Glove 5 Ultra. Fifth Dimension Technologies, Last updated: 25 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

John McCutchan. “Move.me Available Today on PlayStation Store, Free for Students and Educators.” PlayStation.Blog. 26 July 2011. Web.            9 Mar. 2013.

Huber, M.; Rabin, B.; Docan, C.; Burdea, G.; Nwosu, M.E.; AbdelBaky, M.; Golomb, M.R., “PlayStation 3-based tele-rehabilitation for children with hemiplegia,” Virtual Rehabilitation, 2008 , vol., no., pp.105,112, 25-27 Aug. 2008
Kirk, Tera. Gamecritics.com. Ed. Chi Kong Lui, Dale Weir, Brad Gallaway, Daniel Weissenberger, and Tera Kirk. Gamecritics.com, 31 Oct. 2008. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

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