Apr 182011

Can killing monsters help physically-challenged children learn to walk?

It can if they’re virtual monsters, that are part of a balance-developing system created by engineering and computer game design students from Houston’s Rice University. Called the Equiliberator, the system consists of five linked Wii Balance Boards with two pressure-sensitive hand rails running along either side, all of which are linked by Bluetooth to a PC running a custom-designed video game. Children using the setup are able to kill on-screen monsters, by successfully performing exercises that build their balance skills.

The Equiliberator was developed by a group of senior-level students, after the initial challenge was presented to them by an engineer from Shriners Motion Analysis Laboratory. Children aged 6 to 18, challenged with conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida or amputations, are its intended users.

The Balance Boards form a straight runway along the floor, and are covered with an acrylic sheet to keep the children from tripping over the gaps where they meet – the acrylic is clear, so users can still see that what they’re walking on is Wii hardware, which they associate with fun and games.

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