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The Cube gives youngsters a leg-up during rehabilitation

December 15, 2010

EDMONTON – More Alberta children are building leg strength, flexibility and muscle mass thanks to The Cube, a computerized camera-projection system that turns floors into a virtual- reality experience at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

The $14,000 device projects more than 70 special effects and games onto an 80-inch diagonal floor display. Pediatric patients who require lower-limb therapy can easily manipulate the images with their feet as they ‘play.’ The Cube’s computer vision system detects and interprets the children’s motions, and its interactive display reacts to their movements. For instance, when children put their feet on an image of a swimming pool, it causes the ‘water’ to ripple.

Keeping kids strong and on their feet is the goal, says pediatric therapist Tracy Sullivan.

 “As we all know, kids get quite distracted,” says Sullivan. “I need to find a way for kids to stand, and to walk, and to make it fun for them — which is the biggest thing The Cube provides. Their actions cause a change that they can see in the floor display and that’s a big thing for a kid.

“Prior to The Cube, I’d try to motivate the child to stand any way I could. I’d have them stand to reach for an object, or ask them to touch it with their feet, but that only engages them for so long. With The Cube, outcomes are better because children are more motivated. They spend more time hard at work on their therapy because they’re having fun.”

About two dozen children have been helped by The Cube since it arrived at the Glenrose last month, including six-year-old Dean Kopfensteiner, who has cerebral palsy.

Dean is currently recovering from surgery that lengthened the tendons on the front of his hips and insides of his legs to give him a greater range of leg motion and freedom of movement.

“His legs kind of crossed and he was bent forward when he walked,” says Sullivan. “With The Cube, we’re getting him back on his feet and walking again.”

Dean walks for five minutes, rests a minute, then repeats during twice-weekly, hour-long sessions with The Cube.

Games project friendly fish that swim around children’s feet, as well as characters from family movies Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. One game resembles a huge air-hockey board.

“I like that one,” says Dean. “I scored a goal.”

“Dean thinks The Cube is absolutely awesome,” adds mother Kelli Kopfensteiner.

The Cube is part of the Building Trades of Alberta Courage Centre (BTACC), a hub for state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment and technology.

The centre is funded through the Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation as well as corporate and private donations to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation.

AHS is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than 3.7 million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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