The gripAble device, developed by researchers from Imperial College London, is a lightweight electronic handgrip that interacts wirelessly with a standard PC tablet to enable users to play arm-training games.

To use the device, patients squeeze, turn, or lift the handgrip, and it vibrates in response to the patients’ performance. A mechanism within the device can detect even tiny flicker movements from severely paralyzed patients and channel them into controlling a computer game.

A study published recently in PLoS ONE notes that, according to the researchers, use of the gripAble device among stroke patients with arm paralysis may help increase the patients’ ability to direct movements on a tablet screen, compared to standard methods such as swiping or tapping, by up to 50%, according to a news release from Imperial College London.

Additionally, they note in the release, the device enabled more than half of the severely disabled patients in the study to engage with arm-training software, whereas none of the patients were able to use conventional control methods such as swiping and tapping on tablets and smartphones.

In the study, carried out at Charing Cross Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare Trust, between 2014 and 2015, the device was tested among stroke patients with arm paralysis. The researchers assessed the patients’ ability to use gripAble to control mobile gaming devices such as tablets, and compared this to their use of conventional methods such as swiping and tapping.

According to their examination, 93% of the patients were able to make meaningful movements to direct the cursor as a result of using gripAble. In contrast, 67% of patients were able to use mobile gaming devices by swiping on a tablet. For other types of control over the tablet, such as tapping or using joysticks, the number of patients able to make meaningful movements was lower, the release continues.

The success of the device was most apparent for patients with severe arm weakness, the researchers note: no patients in this group were able to use conventional controls to play training games, whereas 58% could use gripAble.

“We have developed the gripAble device to improve arm and cognitive function of patients who have mild to severe arm weaknesses. Unlike other therapies currently on the NHS, gripAble is a low-cost device, which can be used in hospitals and independently by patients at home. As such it could potentially help save the health service millions of pounds,” says lead researcher Dr Paul Bentley, a clinical senior lecturer at Imperial College London and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, in the release.

“We now intend to further develop the device so we can help more patients who are currently suffering from the effects of poor arm and upper body mobility,” he adds.

[Source(s): Imperial College London, Science Daily]