Israeli BioGaming makes physical therapy fun and effective through video games
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Photo credit: BioGaming

Photo credit: BioGaming

To make the road to recovery better, Israel-based BioGaming has developed video games that help users perform their exercises

Coming back from an injury can be a long and annoying process. Setting up appointments and beginning a physical therapy regimen is just the beginning; sticking with the oftentimes dull routine of exercises can be tough to maintain, even for dedicated athletes.

To make the road to recovery more entertaining and effective, Israel-based BioGaming has developed a series of video games that help users perform their exercises correctly while monitoring their progress.

Utilizing the motion tracking capabilities of the Microsoft Kinect for Windows or on Xbox, the SaaS product is sold as a subscription to clinics that can prescribe them to their patients, who can then use the game from home.

Founded in 2012 by CEO Dudi Klein, BioGaming has been labeled a medical device and is already working with users in the United States, Israel, and in Europe. Their product has already received official approval from the FDA, and they can work under the European regulations with their CE mark and ISO 13485 certification.

The evolution of BioGaming

The idea came from Klein’s brother-in-law who worked at Shiva Hospital’s multiple sclerosis center. Having studied physical therapy at Wingate, he had received a Wii Fit grant and thought about how he could develop a product that would help his patients with their symptoms, mainly on issues of vision and balance/stability.

Dudi told him to improvise, so he connected the Wii to the TV and gave it to his patients who got to see their avatars on the screen. He noticed that they were smiling while doing the exercises, making an otherwise uncomfortable routine far more enjoyable. The team kept track of usage, discovering along the way that compliance went way up when they were using the games.

“When you ask patients why they don’t do their PT, the main answer is that it’s boring,” Klein tells Geektime, saying of the therapy that, “It’s tedious and sometimes painful repetition.”

From the other side of the equation, he notes that therapists were complaining that the standard course of treatment gave them no feedback and that is hard to track if their patients are really doing the exercises at home. “The clinician is cut out of the feedback loop,” explains Klein.

What evolved from their findings was a platform that lets the clinician set up the PT program parameters via the web or phone app. This data is sent to BioGaming and they get an understanding of who their patient is and can tailor a series of casual games that meet the needs of the patient based on the clinician’s prescription.

Using the app, the clinician is able to review the user’s progress, change exercises and either add or remove exercises. The user can see how to do each exercise on the app with a visualization. Another useful feature is the in-app messaging where the patient is able to correspond with their clinician, receiving updates to their exercises and lowering the need for more face-to-face meetings that often eat up valuable time.

Stacking up to the competition

One of the most important elements that helps to define BioGaming’s software is that it does not just give a binary score of whether the patient performed the exercise, but also how they did it.

If for example the patient was given an exercise to stand up from their wheelchair, Klein says that most of the competitors would count the fact that the person succeeded in standing up as having satisfactorily performed the task.

BioGaming’s technology takes in more data, observing what kind of movements the user made while getting up, whether they struggled and exactly which motions they exerted while getting to their feet. It can then send the clinician the exact data explaining what is going on with their patient with an analysis. This process of determining what issues are going on with the patient and the analysis are both fully automated, as are all other elements of the program.

Klein tells Geektime that the market for this kind of physical therapy solution is expanding. This is good, since it means that the demand is growing for this kind of product. Add on top of this the growing recognition in the medical system for the need to find cost saving measures that will cut down on the necessary visits to see health professionals and BioGaming will continue to attract a lot of positive attention.

The company is not alone in the gamification of physical therapy. SeeMe has similar features that use the Microsoft Kinect where therapists can create games for their patients while tracking their reports on a database. In reviewing their site, it does not look like they have embraced the video game aspect quite to the same degree, highlighting a more basic “Wii-esq” game play. Video Therapy is another one that is more “do home aerobics” than gaming. Both companies seem to have great reporting mechanisms for monitoring progress.

Looking toward the future

In the future they want to incorporate Oculus and other VR devices into their tech, Klein tells Geektime, but that they need to see it mature and gain more traction before they invest in it more heavily.

In the meantime, he notes that smart TVs, Kinects, and other devices are more available and will likely be the driver behind the business.

Having achieved success in the medical field, the company could decide to exploit the growth of the IoT health sector over the past year and dip their foot into the wellness field. So far, the company has raised $3.8 million in total funding.

Trying it out

During a visit to their offices in Petach Tikva, Geektime had an opportunity to try out the new system with the Kinect 2 that was capable of tracking the movements of a seated patient, observing even the leg movements of a person in a wheelchair that would have just been seen as a part of the chair using the earlier version of the hardware.

Going through both the tutorial as well as a few of the games themselves, the user interface was beautiful and intuitive. Beyond the basic tutorials, the game play of going through the courses, shooting at targets all while holding positions was actually pretty fun, even as someone who normally isn’t that into video games. While the games are geared for younger users, they were easy enough to navigate for the older crowd as well.

I also really liked the ease at which patients can communicate with their therapists through the app, making it far easier to ask quick questions and receive feedback.

As a medical device, their target market will be through hospitals and clinics. But for it to gain popularity and utilize its full potential for cutting down the number of visits to the clinic, it requires users to have the necessary equipment at home, namely a capable PC or XBox with a Kinect. For as much as I loved this product, I don’t think that I’d go out and buy the rest of the necessary components just for doing my PT.

Keeping up with a physical therapy regimen is a long and frustrating process. If BioGaming can make the overall experience just a little bit more fun to stick to, then they have an excellent shot at making a significant impact on the emerging at-home treatment market.

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Gabriel Avner

About Gabriel Avner

Gabriel has an unhealthy obsession with new messaging apps, social media and pretty much anything coming out of Apple. An experienced security and conflict consultant, he has written for The Diplomatic Club, the Marine War College, and covers military affairs with TLV1 radio. He mostly enjoys reading articles wherever his ADD leads him to and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. EEED 44D4 B8F4 24BE F77E 2DEA 0243 CBD1 3F7C F4B6

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