Another win for 'gamification': FDA clears Microsoft Kinect-based physical therapy system

"Gamification" is the new buzzword in med tech. After all, playing games can make tasks fun and provide a source of motivation.

In the latest example, the FDA cleared the Yugo Microsoft ($MSFT) Kinect-based physical therapy system. Developed by Israeli startup Yugo, the device can be used to create a personalized physical therapy routine, which can be done at home following prompts from an Xbox or other computer that's connected to the Kinect. The Kinect camera records patient's movements and sends it to the cloud, enabling physiotherapists to keep tabs on their patients' rehabilitation from orthopedic injuries (or lack of therapy, in the case of those who are noncompliant).

Caveat: Yugo's website is down, and emails to the company are bouncing back, according to MobiHealthNews, which reported the news. Notice of the clearance can also be found on the FDA's 510(k) database.

"Adherence to traditional physiotherapy approaches is painfully low, and boring routines often demotivate patients and fail to improve patient health as intended," said Biogaming CEO Dudi Klein in a statement, issued in November, when the system launched in Europe and Israel. "We're taking the proven physiotherapy routines, real-time biofeedback and personal encouragement of sessions in the hospital or clinic and bringing it home. It closes the gaps in the current physiotherapy process to boost adherence, transform the therapy cost equation for providers, and empower our customers to deliver better patient outcomes."

The clearance comes on the heels of word that Microsoft and Novartis are taking their Assess MS motion camera and machine-learning software to 5 additional clinics and hospitals in a bid to obtain more videos to improve the system for objectively monitoring and diagnosing multiple sclerosis.

The system prompts patients to make gestures like touching of the nose, and then scores their movements. It could someday enable home healthcare and more frequent testing, rather than the two to four tests per year that patients currently perform in a clinic.

And Reflexion Health's Kinect-enabled physical therapy tool for musculoskeletal rehabilitation was FDA-cleared in November, reports MobiHealthNews, while Jintronix won FDA clearance for its Kinect-based stroke rehabilitation software in in 2014.

Reflecting the broader trend toward gamification, Akili Interactive recently secured a $30.5 million funding round. It is developing a video game-based platform for treating ADHD and other neurological conditions in hopes of its first product launch in 2017.

In November, Israel's Intendu touted the launch of the Functional Brain Trainer to rehabilitate patients suffering from cognitive impairment using adaptive video games.

- here's MobiHealthNews' take