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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

University of Southampton and Roke develop technology world first to support stroke patients

Published: 14 June 2012

The University of Southampton, in collaboration with Roke Manor Research Ltd (Roke), a Chemring company, has pioneered the use of Xbox computer technology to develop the world’s first process that measures hand joint movement to help stroke patients recover manual agility at home.

The Xbox Kinect works by monitoring whole limb movements allowing controller-free gaming; the gamer becomes the game. However, the University team has taken it a step further to create an algorithm that tracks and measures hand joint angles and the fine dexterity of individual finger movements. The ultimate aim is to capture the data while the patients follow exercises on a TV screen.

The project aims to help people recovering from a stroke to do more regular and precise exercises so that they recover faster. The data collected will be fed back to the therapists caring for the patient so they can continually monitor progress, reducing the need for frequent hospital visits.

This new system has been developed to complement the home-based physiotherapy care already offered to patients in the UK, and follows a recent Stroke Association report [1] which stated that stroke survivors are being denied the chance to make their best recovery because of a lack of post-hospital care.

Health Sciences academic Dr Cheryl Metcalf, at the University of Southampton, has been supervising the project. She comments: "Recovering from a stroke can be a daunting and distressing time for patients and their families.

"Through our research we know that many people recovering from a stroke find their at-home exercises repetitive and often demotivating. If they are already finding it difficult and frustrating to move their hands, they need something to encourage them to try harder. We wanted to create a more engaging way to help them recover faster.

"Using the Kinect we have been able to take a commercially available product and develop a highly novel tool that aims to be both cost effective and clinically applicable."

The Southampton and Roke team's next objective is to create a series of computer games to make the rehabilitation process more interesting for the patient. The games will adapt to each individual's ability and help motivate them to reach rehabilitation goals by feeding back higher scores if their joint movements improve.

Simon Wickes, Healthcare Business Sector Manager at Roke, says: "Strokes are the largest single cause of severe disability in the UK and it is estimated that every year half of the 100,000 stroke patients experience upper limb problems. This project could make a significant difference to the wellbeing of those affected.

"As Roke has a strong R&D pedigree in mobile and e-health devices, we were able to provide the technical guidance and support to help the students realise this exciting and valuable project. Not only is it a cost effective out-of-the-box solution, by reducing patient recovery times it could also have a positive impact on the £2.5 billion[2] which the care and rehabilitation of stroke patients cost the UK health and social care system each year."


[1] Struggling to Recover, Stroke Association, May 2012

[2] Stroke Statistics, a British Heart Foundation and Stroke Association report

Notes for editors

Images and video footage taken from the Xbox Kinect project are available from Media Relations. A full video can be viewed at

About Roke
Roke, based in Romsey, Hampshire, is the principal electronics research and development centre of Chemring Group Plc. Founded in 1956, Roke is one of the UK's leading suppliers of innovative solutions and contract R&D, pioneering developments in electronic sensors, networks and communications technology. It employs 450 staff and has over 430 patents to its name.

About Chemring

Chemring is a manufacturing business with facilities in eight countries selling high technology electronics and energetic products to over eighty countries worldwide. The Company has a diverse portfolio of products protecting military people and platforms against a constantly changing threat.

Operating in high margin, niche markets with short product development timescales, Chemring has the ability to rapidly react to urgent customer needs. Chemring adopts a balanced strategy of organic growth and small bolt-on acquisitions, and maintains balanced geographic and market profiles, with a growing presence in non-NATO countries.

Strong R&D investment for new products and improvements in technology continually allows Chemring to expand its addressable markets.

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