At first glance the Rapael smart glove looks like one of the robot skeletons from the television show "Westworld." Created by the South Korean company Neofect, the glove uses a variety of sensors to guide a patient's rehabilitation for common hand and wrist injuries.
Seeing the Rapael glove in-person at CES, I had flashbacks to the NES Power Glove. The Rapael with its nine-axis movement sensor, bending sensors and 32-bit microcontrollers is more advanced in nearly every way. But the Rapael, as the Power Glove did, radiates a spirit of fun and gameplay. In fact, gamified exercises are essential to how the glove works.
A patient wears the wireless glove on their injured hand and wrist. The glove connects to the Rapael app which guides the user through repetitive movements to engage specific muscles and tendons. For example, I was shown a game where the user has to chop a vegetables using repetitive radial wrist movements. Another game, has the user throwing darts which emphasizes the flexing of the fingers.
Neofect developed the app's games from actual physical therapy games/exercises. There is equal emphasis on finding exercises that work and that are also fun -- hence the game that involves pouring a glass of wine.
Data from the gloves' numerous sensors feed through a software algorithm that customizes the game play for the patient's needs. A spokesperson compared this customization to the way Netflix's algorithm customizes a viewer's television shows and movies recommendations.
The Rapael has been approved by both the US and South Korean Food and Drug Administration. It is offered in two versions: one for clinics and one for home use. The home version is available to rent monthly for $99 (£81 and AU$136 converted).
A spokesperson told me they chose to name the glove Rapael based on "raphael," which means "God is healer." Neofect seems earnest in its pursuit to do just that -- there are plans for other devices to assist with physical therapy for shoulders and knees.