While Kinect for Microsoft’s Xbox home entertainment system has helped revolutionize how people play video games, an Alberta entrepreneur is hoping the motion-sensing hardware will be a game changer for rehabilitation practitioners.
With support from Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF), the team at Medicine Hat’s Kinetisense Inc. has developed movement analysis software that leverages Microsoft’s Kinect technology. Using the software, rehab practitioners like chiropractors and physiotherapists can quickly and easily interpret patient video data to measure and analyze range of motion without any poking, prodding, or manual recording.
Kinetisense CEO Dr. Ryan Comeau first became interested in biomechanics and rehabilitative medicine after being on the wrong side of an injury during his time as a collegiate hockey player at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. During his stint in rehab he was first exposed to assessment tools like the goniometer, and instrument for the precise measurement of angles, and the inclinometer which measures the angle of inclination.
Years later, he would see these tools again as student in a Los Angeles-based chiropractic school.
“The instructor basically told us that these tools were considered the gold standard for assessing movement … though he also acknowledged the lack of accuracy,” Ryan recalls. “To me, the tools were really archaic. It just got me thinking, ‘There has to be a better way …’”
Thus began Ryan’s move towards developing the Kinetisense technology along with partner and co-inventor David Schnare.
Here’s how it works:
Through the subscription-based Kinetisense software, the Microsoft Kinect One Sensor 3D Camera captures a patient’s range of motion. By verbalizing or pressing a button to indicate level of discomfort, a patient’s pain is tracked on a Visual Analog Scale from one to 10 (10 being the most pain they have ever experienced). By assessing this level of pain compared to the patient’s full range of motion, KinetiSense assists practitioners with accurate measurement and determining optimal treatment methods.
See the video below:
“Because the range of motion data gathered is immediately placed into a chart, you can just as immediately show patients how much improvement they have made,” he explains. “That’s one of the biggest challenges in rehab is patients who get dejected because they are still in pain.
“A 12-year-old girl was recently sent to me for rehabilitation on a fracture below her left elbow,” he continues. “It was a slow and literally painful process; she was often in tears. But because I could immediately show her incremental improvements, she was excited to return and make more progress. Without it, she likely would have given up on care and been stuck with a chronically flexed elbow.
“Kinetisense improves patient education and compliance. It also improves the referral process and determining whether surgery or rehab is necessary. It helps make better judgment call because it’s objective and efficient.”
Another potential benefit of Kinetisense is its capacity to help deliver assessments remotely. For instance, a rural health clinic equipped with a camera and a laptop loaded with the software could deliver assessments to rehabilitation practitioners based in larger metropolitan centres. Ryan says this potential to eliminate the inconvenience and costs associated with travel would help remove barriers to proper care and burdens to the health care system in general.
“It’s completely changed the game for our practitioners. We want this to become a standard of care,” Ryan says, adding that Kinetisense is already being used in clinics in the U.K., Europe, Hong Kong, the U.S. and Australia.
The technology was also recently recognized as a Top 100 Challenger in the international Interface Health Excellence Challenge in the Digital Therapies and Medical Devices Category. Interface Health is a platform and community for health care innovators.
The potential of Kinetisense was also quickly recognized by provincial and federal innovation partners, which helped fast-track the software for commercialization.
Representatives from Medicine Hat College and the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) connected Ryan’s team to Apex, the Southeast Alberta Regional Innovation Network, and AITF Technology Development Advisor John Stroh.
“After my initial meeting with the Kinetisense partners, I was excited by their product and the global opportunity it represented,” says John, who assisted the company in a successful application for an AITF micro-voucher voucher towards acquiring IP protection. With continued support, Kinetisense now has a strategy and process to protect its IP globally.
“It wasn’t long after developing this go-forward strategy to accelerate the path to commercialization that the Kinetisense technology started to be recognized on the world stage,” adds John.
“The world of telemedicine and telehealth is moving so fast and we have to be as fast. Without AITF’s support, it would have taken us years to get to where we are now,” Ryan says. “By helping us protect our IP, it helped make us more attractive to investors and maintain control of where we are going. Our goal is to make Kinetisense a staple of rehab of globally.”
AITF has a history of supporting small- to medium-sized enterprises and start-ups in the province through consultation, development, and funding. Learn more about Alberta’s Regional Innovation Network and AITF funding programs.