The Rapael smart pegboard from Neofect looks like an item you might find in an arcade. Power it up and it acts like one too: The digital device is outfitted with holes that light up in a variety of shapes and patterns. One setting functions like a stripped-down version of Whack-a-Mole, where the object is to fill the illuminated spaces with pegs before time runs out. Though the designers took inspiration from classic children's games, their pegboard is meant to provide life-changing therapy instead of simple entertainment.
As Mashable reports, the pegboard was built as a rehabilitation tool for stroke survivors. The inventors at the South Korean medical startup Neofect modeled the product after the old-school pegboards that are already used in many physical therapists' offices. The purpose of those original boards is to improve motor function in people recovering from neurological damage (like the kind sustained after a stroke) by having them complete dexterity tests. The smart pegboard takes this one step further by offering a gamified aspect.
By making physical therapy tools fun to use, the idea is that patients will be more engaged and more motivated in each exercise. In addition to the Whack-a-Mole activity, the pegboard is also compatible with games in the styles of Simon Says and Lite-Brite. A digital panel on the side of the board provides users with visual and auditory feedback so they can keep track of their progress.
About 795,000 people in the U.S. fall victim to strokes each year, and it can take survivors months to years to recover. Games have been proven to be beneficial to the rehabilitation process, but patients and doctors interested in purchasing Neofect's smart pegboard will need to pay a high price: The full version costs $2000 (the pegboard without the digital hardware is much cheaper at $50 for a small one). The device still needs to undergo clinical trials before it will be ready to hit the market.