Can this Groundbreaking Technology Help Stroke Victims?

Who knew dolphins could help stroke victims regain motor function? A team at Johns Hopkins did, and they engaged with the National Aquarium to produce something truly groundbreaking.

Published October 15, 2014


A partnership formed between the National Aquarium and a multidisciplinary team at Johns Hopkins. Their goal: to create a physical dolphin simulation to help stroke victims regain critical motor function.

Strokes affect nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. each year. During a stroke, blood supply to the brain is interrupted, depriving it of oxygen and crippling the body. The idea behind the simulation is to provide an immersive rehabilitation environment that is stimulating and engaging for post-stroke patients.

By placing their arm in a robotic sling, patients could control the motion of a simulated dolphin. Their discernible movements would be mirrored on screen—the swipe of an arm or flick of a finger determining where the dolphin moves, if it flips, dives, catches a fish or leaps from the water.

The Hopkins team worked closely with the Aquarium's animal experts and spent hundreds of hours studying the animals’ movements and behaviors. Three dolphins in particular—Beau, Foster and Bayley—served as the basis for the dolphin seen in the simulation. They even used sound recordings from the three dolphins to produce the program’s audio. The team’s scientists, artists, engineers and programmers worked to replicate a dolphin’s range and fluidity of motion in a cybernetic form.

The result of all this effort: “I Am Dolphin.”

Clinical trials for the simulation begin in a few months, but “I Am Dolphin” is already creating buzz outside of the medical community. What began as a tool to help post-stroke victims has developed into a fully functional app—available to anyone with a tablet or smartphone. The game allows users to adopt the role of a dolphin—swimming, hunting, jumping and more—with the swipe of a finger. The user is transported to the dolphin’s world, fostering a deep connection with the ocean and inspiring emotional learning.

The I Am Dolphin team generously offered to donate three percent of the game’s profits to the National Aquarium in support of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.

Click below to download the app! 

i am dolphin

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