By Adrian Galbreth
Millions of children across the planet have enjoyed hours playing on their Nintendo Wii as they jump across platforms with Mario, escape dungeons with Link in the Legend of Zelda game and swing between vines with Donkey Kong, but while they are having fun the activity may also be highlighting any underlying eye problems they have.
That is according to experts at the Seoul National University College of Medicine, who claim that scientists can use Nintendo's Wiimote to assess and diagnose children with an abnormal head position caused by eye diseases.
In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, researchers led by Dr Jeong-Min Hwang reveal how they have developed a low-cost digital head posture measuring device with Wiimotes to help diagnose ocular torticollis.
The disease occurs in about 1.3 per cent of children, and accurate measurement of the angle of the abnormal head position is crucial for evaluating disease progression and determining treatment or surgical plans in sufferers, noted Dr Hwang.
In the study, the specialists highlight how it can be difficult to get reliable data from children whose heads move constantly, and so digital head posture measuring systems using electronic devices would be an ideal alternative - something the Wiimote can achieve, thanks to its motion tracking capability.
The scientist used two Wii controllers to develop an infrared optical head tracker (IOHT) that automatically measures and records the angle of the head in real-time and connected the remotes to a monitoring computer with an infrared camera and Bluetooth connectivity.
The IOHT was then evaluated for accuracy, validity and reliability by comparing it with a CROM device, which is one of the most widely used head posture measuring devices in hospitals.
They found that, in measuring the head posture of normal adult subjects, the measurement of the one-dimensional and three-dimensional (3-D) positions of a human head with IOHT were very close to those of CROM.
According to the specialists, the new tool could play a key role in diagnosing ophthalmic patients in the future.
"Considering its high performance, ease of use and low cost, we believe IOHT has the potential to be widely used as a head posture measuring device in clinical practice," the study authors state.
by Martin Burns