I probably looked ridiculous, sitting in a Starbucks waving two brightly colored bean bags through the air, eyes glued to my computer screen.
But Israeli entrepreneur Eran Arden wanted to demonstrate the developmental therapy games for children he’s hoping to bring to the U.S. later this year.
The platform is called Timocco, and it was designed specifically for use as part of an occupational therapy regimen for children with cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities that affect nearly one in six kids in the U.S. The 50 games that it currently offers help children practice a variety of skills, from dividing attention and filtering distraction to coordination and range of motion.
The platform runs on the Microsoft operating system and requires a quick software download, a web cam and sphere-shaped sensor gloves that are tracked by the webcam – the latter of which are included in Timocco’s starter kit.
The games star a monkey, whose arms children control by wearing the gloves and moving their hands. (There’s also an eye-tracking device that’s compatible, for children who can’t move their arms.) Through the various games, they’re challenged to perform different tasks like popping certain colored bubbles that appear on the screen or catching shapes that fall from the sky and placing them in the basket that contains other identical shapes. In other word and number games, children interact with the monkey.
The games were developed by occupational therapist Sarit Tresser and computer scientist Shai Yagur, who co-founded the company along with Arden, a digital strategist who previously ran a startup accelerator in Tel-Aviv, about three years ago.
One version of Timocco is a cloud-based platform for use at home. Parents or caretakers log into the online portal and can access the games from there. Meanwhile, the platform tracks the child’s performance on each game, so that a therapist or teacher can log into her own dashboard and monitor how he’s doing. From there, she can also adjust the therapy regimen for the child by changing the recommended games, the number of stimuli in the games or difficulty level, for example.
Arden said users pay $30 per month for access to its games, which are already being played in Europe and Israel. Now he’s looking to open a U.S. sales office just outside of Cleveland and said he’s out raising $1.2 million to make that happen, meanwhile working with hospitals and schools in the area.
Games as a means of therapy isn’t a new concept. It’s inspired a number of startups and research efforts, especially in the way of stroke and injury recovery. One would-be cross-town Cleveland startup is even working on a similar project that would turn virtual comic books into a tool for cognitive training for children with autism.
Arden said the value in Timocco is that it teaches communication, cognitive and motor skills specifically to kids. Also, it requires only the starter kit (which costs about $10 for the company to produce) and a computer with Internet access and a webcam. The technology has been piloted at the Child Development Centre for Clalit Health Services in Israel and is involved in ongoing research at McGill University in Canada.
Arden said Timocco has 5,000 kids and almost 200 therapists on a local installment, and almost 300 kids are using the web-based version.
He added that the company is developing an open API so others can build games for it, too.
[Image credit: Timocco]