A gesture-based virtual art program for children with severe motor impairments - development and pilot study
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Art plays a vital role in developing a child’s communication, problem solving, social and emotional skills as well as motor control, creativity and self-expression. For children with severe impairments that limit their access to traditional art processes, it is important to find alternative methods to enable these children to express themselves creatively. Advantages of a virtual art program include its ability to compensate for specific physical impairments, flexibility of incorporating sensory feedback, such as audio, to improve engagement, the avoidance of the untidiness often associated with children’s arts activities, and the absence of physical parts conducive to accidental ingestion. The Kinect Virtual Art Program (KVAP) uses the Microsoft Kinect gesture recognition technology that facilitates a new method of engaging children in therapeutic recreation. The program was designed to allow the creation of art through non-contact ‘virtual’ button activation. A pilot study was performed with five children with severe impairments to determine the level of physical engagement that these children could attain while using the KVAP over five sessions. The results indicated that the participants enjoyed using the KVAP and increasingly engaged with it over the sessions. The KVAP encouraged physical activity and enabled children to create their own works of art, an activity that was previously inaccessible to them using traditional approaches. The KVAP may offer a potential new avenue for therapy, play and exploration.