Development of a Sensor-Enabled App to Track Movement, Energy Expenditure and Motivation during Home-Based Video Game Play for Children with Disabilities

Presenter: Quan Do

Research Category: Engineering and Technology
Student Type: Undergraduate
PI: Waleed Meleis
Award Winner Category: Engineering and Technology


Virtual reality active video games (AVGs) are popular physical therapy interventions for children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy (CP) because they can motivate children to engage in repetitive arm movement. However, adherence to home-based AVG exercises is low because therapists have no way of monitoring game play. The purpose of our research is to develop the prototype for a sensor-enabled smartphone app that tracks arm movement, measures energy expenditure and captures children’s self-reported motivation to facilitate child-therapist communication.


We programmed an Arduino Nano with an optical heart rate pulse sensor and an inertial measurement unit that measures and reports acceleration, rotation and temperature (MPU 6050). An iOS app calibrates the sensors, detects movement and cues the player to record game information and respond to survey questions. Data is sent to a website database that displays it in readable form for therapists to facilitate decision-making about exercise progression. Children receive positive reinforcement via understandable metrics. The device is located in a velcro wristband with a 3D printed cover permitting stability during the rapid motions involved in game play.

Next steps in the project

As we perfect data transmission from Arduino to the app and finalize website design, feasibility and usability testing is planned with a small group of children and their families in Northeastern’s Rehabilitation Games and Virtual Reality Lab.  Ultimately, our low-cost, user friendly wearable app will enhance adherence to evidence-based AVG exercises, improving functional outcomes for children with hemiplegic CP.