Lighting the Way to Healing

WIM – Interactive Stroke Therapy Named IDEA 2018 Best in Show

Dec 5 2018 - 3:30pm

Age is a risk factor for a stroke, and as the world’s population rapidly grows older over the coming decades, the number of stroke survivors is expected to increase. In the United States, strokes are estimated to cost $34 billion each year; this includes the cost of healthcare services, medication and loss of productivity. With health services under considerable social and financial pressure, an inexpensive easily delivered means to help patients quickly and fully recover from a stroke is needed.  

Stroke rehabilitation today often focuses on the muscles not the brain. This leads to compensation, making it difficult for patients to ever fully recover. WIM, on the other hand, focuses on active brain therapy and keeping patients motivated to continue with their therapy once they return home, making it more likely that they will fully recover.

The therapy is conducted in a game-like way that triggers an intrinsic motivation to do more training sessions. To get your attention, the WIM spherical training tool lights up and generates subtle sounds and vibrations. When it gets picked up, it automatically turns into therapy play mode. A pulsating light and up to four static lights appear on its surface. You place your thumb on the pulsating light and your fingers on the static lights. After a short press, WIM uses sound and vibration to tell you when you’ve been successful. If you incorrectly place your fingers, WIM responds with an error sound and a vibration. For many stroke patients, correctly placing their fingers is difficult because their visual field can be distorted.


“This project identified an incredibly important need and developed a meaningful, useful and beautiful solution that enables patients to regain their independence.” 

—Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness, IDSA


Once the lights are properly gripped, WIM lights up a different area. The repeated practice of properly gripping WIM trains the brain to adapt and improves movement between the shoulder and wrist. Based on your performance, WIM adapts the difficulty to your skill level, changing how many fingers you need to place on WIM, how much force you need to use, and how much time you have to complete the tasks. To complete all the tasks in each session takes up to five minutes. 

At the beginning of the therapy, WIM’s spherical shape trains general motoric movements. Later, it will be replaced by a cylindrical shape similar to a pen to challenge finer motor skills. During the final stage of therapy, WIM appears in the shape of a small cube to make sure you regain the last bit of your motor skills. The continuous tracking of motion data through the armband and application enables WIM to adapt the training level to the current needs of the patient. The armband records the movement of the hand throughout the day, and through the app patients can see if their impaired hand was used enough or not due to subconscious compensation. 

Through the mobile app the therapist gets access to information about the patient’s progress. A communication feature within the app enables the therapist to provide tips, motivation and encouragement to help the patient overcome their fears.

Designed by Jenny Holmsten and Thomas Helmer of Umeå Institute of Design