Tonight I attended a pair of presentations at UBC on gaming as health care. Nice work if you can get it.
The first study is working on increasing practice movement of upper limbs. The problem being addressed is getting people to do enough “reps” to restore muscle control in their upper limbs after injury, especially where one limb has greater control than the other. This answer is creating a system where both arms must operate in matched movement to manipulate the cursor.
Currently the games are really quite simple, but it is easy to see how the concept can be applied in more challenging – and interesting – scenarios. And that is key: the system tracks the amount and range of motion, but you still need to capture the attention of the client involved in the treatment. There is a lot of excitement as the team works to expand and improve the technology, and study the applications.
The other applies the immersiveness of virtual reality[en.WP] to an unexpected issue: pain management. Distraction is a very successful pain management tool, and here the high tech head sets and positional motion detection allow the clients to interact with the digital environment, engaging them enough to give some relief from chronic pain.
Even though it may seem very temporary, it might have both long and short term benefits, like retraining neural pathways and ameliorating some effects of depression. But the initial study was very preliminary, and the research team is in the early days of a more-ambitious study.