In this MEDICA-tradefair.com interview, Dr. Eveline Graf talks about the "ExerUP!" research project, explains how the ExerCube by Sphery combines physical and cognitive exercises and describes the possible evolution of exergames and gamification in physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
Dr. Graf, what is the objective of the "ExerUP!" project?
Dr. Eveline Graf: We combine the ExerCube by Sphery – a product for fitness and exergaming – with rehabilitation. The ExerCube is a device suited for HIIT or high-intensity interval training that enables users to train in a virtual environment. As part of this study, we explore the potential of the ExerCube to facilitate sports rehabilitation after cruciate ligament injuries and look at future exergame developments that ensure a safe and effective use in rehabilitation settings.
How does the ExerCube work?
Graf: The ExerCube is actually shaped like an open cube with three walls, which serve as projection screens for the physically immersive exergame setting. The current "Sphery Racer" game takes players on a track. As they speed along the track, players pass various gates where they must perform specific exercises. These are typical fitness exercises, such as burpees, lunges, jumps, or punches. Users wear motion tracking systems on their hands and feet, which track the player’s body position and determine whether the movement was performed correctly.
ExerCube training is physically demanding, but also adds a cognitive layer since exercise timing is an important aspect. If the players complete the exercises with the right timing, the game will speed up – or slow down if the person cannot keep up. It adapts to the player's individual fitness and gaming skills.
Thanks to this cognitive component, the ExerCube bridges a gap in rehabilitation. Physiotherapy takes place in a highly controlled environment. Meanwhile, sports can be an unpredictable setting with uncontrollable variables and distractions: your own and the opposing team, handling sports equipment and dealing with stimuli from light, noise, and the audience during competitions. These days, we can physically prepare athletes to return to play following injuries, but these distractions present major mental obstacles that can hold them back.
Why does the project focus on cruciate ligament injuries?
Graf: They are one of the most common knee injuries in many sports that have a major effect on athletes. ExerCube training emphasizes leg exercises, making this a very sensible choice. Shoulder injuries would be a conceivable topic for a follow-up project.