Ces Week – Neofect Rapael Smart Glove

Rapael Smart Glove:

A hand rehabilitation product for stroke patients

By Elisabeth NG

Remember the ubiquitous ‘Snake’ game from our pre-smart phone era? Using arrow buttons, the user steered a clunky rectangle on a black and white screen.

Mobile phone games have since evolved exponentially with the advent of the smart phone. Colorful graphics, sophisticated animation, highly complex games – a whole industry has grown around building and monetizing these games. As the industry expands, we’ve noticed a push for more sophisticated products, and an increased investment on the neurological effects and potential of such games. 

At the recent Consumer Technology showcase in New York, DFA tried out NEOFECT’s Rapael Smart Glove technology – a hand rehabilitation product for stroke patients that uses smart phone games in the physiotherapy process.

The product works in two parts: A physical device called the “Rapael Smart Glove” which the user puts on to play game-like physiotherapy exercises. The Smart Glove collects real-time biofeedback and syncs to a smart phone or tablet computer device wirelessly. The glove is made with lightweight elastomer material and designed to make stiff hands comfortable. The elastomer makes cleaning easy and the glove keeps its form. The bending sensor and 9-axis IMU sensor are highly sensitive – the bending sensor changes as it is bent and accurately computes the amount of individual finger movements. It can pick up over 200 000 data points from a movement of just an inch. This means the Smart Glove can pick up a wide range of bio-mechanical evaluation on both passive and active motions.

The second part is their patented Smart Rehabilitation Concept. Their “Smart Platform” contains games designed in-house. The games are designed to be clinically efficient but entertaining. As the Smart Glove collects real time data with each game played, the Smart Platform’s algorithm adjusts the optimal level of difficulty of the game. 

The benefit of using mobile games in rehabilitation is that it makes the process much more enjoyable and entertaining. Most rehabilitation exercises are repetitive, making it hard to stay motivated through the entire process. According to Paul Ruelos, a manager at Neofect and former physiotherapist, the Rapael is designed to make rehabilitation ‘home work’ easier. The Rapael is not meant to replace a physiotherapist. Patients often abandon these exercises due to the boredom and repetition, but these exercises are crucial in inducing neuroplasticity for motor function. Inconsistency slows down progress and frustration that spirals down.

The program’s ability to customize exercises according to real time data makes it less frustrating for the patient, while games inject an element of fun. A physiotherapist can review data and track progress, and put together these factors optimize recovery speed.

The technology was developed in South Korea in partnership with some of the top Korean research universities, including Seoul National University and the Yonsei University Hospital. Stanford University is a research partner for the North American team.

The product is currently distributed in both Korea and West European markets. The Rapael is available in select cities across North America, but Neofect has been working on a distribution plan with hospitals to make the product more affordable and available. The Rapael Smart Glove costs $10 000 (not including tablet/smart phone) but under current distribution plans it is available to rent from partner hospitals at $100 a month, and rental plans include a tablet computer. Due to the complexities of insurance laws that vary from state to state, it may take a while before insurance plans will cover Rapael rental plans. At DFA we’re of the opinion that the Rapael does speed up recovery times and are worth the monthly investment as these are a temporary aid.

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