Dr. Karyn Moffatt of the School of Information Studies awarded NSERC Engage Grant for game-based physical therapy research

Published: 11 January 2016

Congratulations to McGill School of Information Studies faculty member Dr. Karyn Moffatt on receiving an NSERC Engage Grant from the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada to further research to support technological innovation in persuasive technology and game-based physical therapy. Dr. Rita Orji, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Accessible Computing Technology Lab, will take a leading role in the project.


Game-based physical therapy—which harnesses the power of virtual games, motion tracking sensors, and evidence-based treatments—has been shown to provide an alternative way of delivering therapy services to clients.

Jintronix is an industry leader in the delivery of physical therapy through the development of games using "Kinect" motion sensing input devices and therapy tools. This approach makes the completion of physical exercises more engaging while at the same time providing assessment and feedback on the patient's progress. However, despite the company's increasing investment in game-base therapy, a major challenge remains—how to design games that will motivate patients to continue with their physical therapy over the long term required to achieve the desired treatment outcomes.

Decades of research in the field of human-computer interaction and persuasive technology have shown that interactive technologies can be designed to persuade, to motivate, and to increase engagement, adoption, and adherence to certain tasks. This project will explore the design of persuasive interface elements for technology-enabled physical therapy that support long-term adherence "in the wild", that is, in homes and outside of tightly monitored therapy environments.

In collaboration with Jintronix, Dr. Moffatt and Dr. Orji will iteratively design and evaluate prototype persuasive and social user-interface elements that can be embedded in their systems to promote long-term engagement. Based on their design and evaluation efforts, the company will receive technical understandings of how to develop these types of systems, (in particular, user interface elements for sustaining engagement), and detailed user practices to inform their designs.


The result of this research will directly aid with innovations in home-based delivery of physical therapy. Due to the massive proliferation of technology-enabled physical therapy, successful completion of this research will lead to technological innovation which will improve the effectiveness of low-cost, home-based, healthcare solutions. These innovations will benefit not only Jintronix but also other technology-enabled physical therapy stakeholders, technology developers, healthcare professionals, and patients. The Canadian government will also benefit from low-cost approaches for designing effective technology-enabled physical therapy.


Visit the Accessible Computing Technology Research Group website, or contact Dr. Karyn Moffatt.

NSERC Engage Grants are designed to give companies that operate from a Canadian base access to the unique knowledge and expertise available at Canadian universities. These grants foster the development of new research partnerships between an academic researcher and an industrial partner by addressing a company-specific problem through the generation of new knowledge or the application of existing knowledge in an innovative manner.

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