Magic Monster: motivating children to do home-based hand therapy with self-adaptive play complexity

Continuing physical therapy at home can be stressful, challenging and unmotivating, especially for children. Researchers and students from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht University, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Twente and partners (Ijsfontein, Roessingh Rehabilitation Centre, Phillips Research) are researching how to design smart toys with self-adaptive play complexity to motivate children with cerebral palsy (CP) to continue hand therapy at home. The Magic Monster prototype was presented during the Dutch Design Week 2022 as a part of the Embassy of Health exhibition.

The Magic Monster smart toy is part of the doctoral research of Tamara Pinos Cisneros, researcher of the Digital Life Centre and Civic Interaction Design lectorates and the Digital Society School. A Human-AI Alliance project (Ben Schouten - TU/e; Kayleigh Schoorl & Albert Ali Salah - UU) was recently completed to add machine learning based adaptive skills to the toy.

Magic Monster - Ben Schouten

The Magic Monster is a therapeutical smart toy designed to motivate children with cerebral palsy (CP) to do hand exercises at home by playing and learning how to do magic tricks. The monster is a magic trick assistant composed of a smartphone inside a cuddly toy. It uses the sensors of the phone to collect movement data. With the aid of machine learning and AI algorithms, it can detect hand movements and self-adapt the play complexity according to the child's skills to provide an engaging play experience. By providing adaptive challenges to the child, we aim to increase the motivation and adherence to the therapy.

Magic Monster - Ben Schouten

This project is about using technology in a playful way to make therapy more accessible to children with CP. The last years of the pandemic have highlighted the need for these types of tools that provide the treatment they need as a fun and empowering experience. This allows them to continue to be children and enjoy their childhood despite the challenges around them. We are hoping that the knowledge on Play, motivation and AI gathered in this project can later be used for other types of therapies and conditions.