'MusicGlove' Helps Stroke Patients Use Their Hands Again

Nearly 800,000 people have a stroke each year. That's about 1 person every 40 seconds. It's also the leading cause of long-term disability in the US, according to CDC.  


While there are many treatments that help stroke patients recover lost abilities, too few patients keep up with their therapy after leaving the hospital. Stroke therapy leaves the patient alone at home with a list of exercises to do. Experts say, it's not motivating people enough to continue the therapy. 

MusicGlove Tunes Motor Skills

Nizan Friedman, founder of Flint Rehabilitation Devices, created MusicGlove in hopes to change this major issue with stroke recovery therapy. 

MusicGlove is a wearable computing device designed to help patients improve their fine motor skills.

  • The glove is outfitted with tiny sensors that track the user’s hand movements.
  • Patients use it to play a Guitar Hero-style game that involves pinching and gripping notes on the screen of a tablet.
  • MusicGlove is similar to exercises patients are told to perform after leaving the hospital, but better
  • High repetition
  • Doing a movement many times
  • Being motivated to do it day in day out

The philosophy behing MusicGlove is to use music as a way to keep people from getting bored with doing the same exercises again and again — much of the same principles behind music therapy as a practice. 

How MusicGlove Was Created

Friedman’s background as a musician helped him create MusicGlove. The story goes, he came up with the idea while working on his PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of California. He was working under two professors

  • David Reinkensmeyer - rehabilitation robotics expert
  • Mark Bachman - sensor expert and fellow musician

He wanted to combine robotics and music therapy, but the three of them soon realized a robotic hand would be too expensive. Instead, he came up with the idea of glove instead, which, Friedman says, worked better than they could have imagined.

People who hadn’t used their hands in months or even years were suddenly seeing benefit.
— Dr. Friedman

After creating the MusicGlove, he was inspired and founded the Flint Rehabilitation Devices.

  • Currently selling home version of MusicGlove
  • Sold as a kit including the glove itself and a tablet computer designed specifically for it
  • The company also offers a therapist version that includes a desktop computer that boots right into the MusicGlove software
    • Including task-specific computers is important because it reduces the complexity of learning how to use the device
  • Makes it more accessible to people who aren’t very tech savvy, and for therapists who don’t have time to learn how to use new software

Robotic Hands in the Making

You may be wondering, "Why hasn;t any attempted this before?" Friedman says it’s mostly due to the falling costs of components and mobile devices.

He went on, “Offering a 10-inch tablet for the price point we’re selling the device wouldn’t have been an option 10 years ago,” he says. “Meanwhile, there are all these devices used in top rehab labs in the country, but they cost around $50,000.”

Wearable Tech's Future in Health

MusicGlove is the latest example of how the falling costs of mobile computers are creating a wave of health and safety wearables, from high tech back braces that help prevent spinal injuries to Google Glass apps for autistic students to virtual reality therapy.

Wearable tech may be struggling to find its reason for being in the general consumer market, but it’s beginning to realize its promise in the healthcare world.