Researchers from UPM and URJC have created a platform made up of diverse games that will allow children with neurological disorders to rehabilitate orofacial disorders.
SONRÍE is a system of therapy for children with cerebral palsy that has been developed by a multidisciplinary team of female researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) and Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC). By using a kinect 360 sensor, they created a set of games in order to detect different facial gestures: whoosh, eyebrows raised, kiss and smile aiming, firstly, to achieve greater detection accuracy, and secondly, a therapeutic improvement in facial movement.
Cerebral palsy is a brain condition essentially characterized by a persistent, though not invariable, disorder of tone, posture and movement. This condition, which appears in early childhood, is a non-evolutionary brain injury that triggers a huge influence on the neurological maturation of the affected subject.
The diverse affections suffered by children with brain palsy make hard, or even impossible, to perform daily activities such as get dressed, tidy up, eat, going to school or even walk or talk. In order to help these children to talk, gesticulate and even eat properly, it is essential to perform facial rehabilitation exercises that allow them to improve the right execution of diverse movements of the face.
Drugs and rehabilitation treatments are increasingly using new technologies, since they allow us to build more attractive solutions for patients. In the case of children, new technologies allow them to play with intuitive, stimulating and therapeutic games.
According to the participating researchers, María Luisa Martín Ruiz and Estefanía Sampedro Sánchez, from UPM, and Nuria Máximo Bocanegra and Laura Luna Oliva, from URJC, “the game is a tool that a kid can use it from birth, both for fun and to learn. The usage of this tool can help children with their physical and neurological development”. In this way, SONRÍE is a set of four games designed for children with brain palsy.
A kinect 360 sensor has been used to develop SONRÍE system. This sensor is a motion capture device manufactured by Microsoft whose initial goal was to play with an Xbox 360 videogame without commanders, and to use a natural user interface that recognizes gestures, voice commands and, what it is more, the human body and facial points.
The facial gestures that are stimulated through games on SONRÍE are four: raise eyebrows, blow, kiss and smile. The developed games aim to explore and then to work with the muscles responsible for each gesture involved, thus achieving an improvement of the facial movements.
The repetition of these gestures can provide new learning and new patterns of brain activity. Besides, this tool allows children to be an active part of the process thus contributing to the improvement of their self-esteem and personal satisfaction.
Although these games have been developed for children with cerebral palsy, SONRÍE could adapt to other children with different diseases that affect both tone and muscle control such as Down syndrome Moebius, syndrome or dystrophies, among others. In addition, by modifying the virtual system environment, this tool could also be applied to adults.
People with facial palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, head trauma or stroke with facial involvement could use this system to improve their mobility of orofacial musculature contributing to a better quality of life of these people and their families. To conclude, combining technology and health is the right way to follow today.