Medical Checkups & Dementia Treatment Games

Games make us healthier. Yes. But how much?

Average Reading time 4 min. includes 3 Videos to watch.

From going and playing basketball to jumping around with a Wii, games are making, and have been making us healthier for centuries. We play sports to give our bodies a good workout. With the advent of motion tracking, consoles have a number of health and fitness workouts available. These are all wonderful examples of exercise, but they are not real scientific treatments at all.

The key to real scientific treatments with Game Design, "Science and Game Design entwined in feedback loops."

One Key factor is sensors. They bring both fields of study together like The Dude's rug. The sensor development over the last few years has dropped so dramatically in price and variation. There are heat sensors, motion sensors, GPS,  pulse sensors, EKG sensors, and any google for "wearables" will bring a slew of other sensors available. Key innovations for both researchers and game designers lies with these sensors.

But there are issues to our new "Quantified Selves". We may be too early as usual.

Last year I went to my doctor about an issue I was having. At the same time I was testing the UP Band, which measures movement, sleep, and eating. When the doctor asked if there was anything unusual", I just showed her my medical data dump. She was blown away by the information, and in the end said, OK but I still think we should run some tests.

Most doctors have no idea what to do with all that data about an individual. The data analysis in medical research is there. However, it hasn't been translated via most of these commercial products effectively. The Doctors and Medical professionals need to see the analytics in a different way. The Medical profession is built on tests, which are all feedback loops.

Go for a test. An X-ray, blood sample, etc. Lab puts it through a process to determine a positive or negative result.

The sensors of today can track a lot of information about how healthy a lifestyle we are leading. They can even give early warning signs of illness when diagnosed correctly. Getting that data analysis translation to doctors, needs to be as simple a, "Let me look at your test results." The data is compared to current data research to give a positive or negative result.


Game Designers take a breath with Sensors

For Game Designers, sensors have provided a wealth of new and fabulous ways to engage with players. I remember a few years ago standing in the smoking room at one Game Exhibition. I was playing "Smoke Pong" by using my cigarette as a controller. A heat sensor measured the burning smoke, and used it as the control for my pong paddle. This was projected on the wall so two people could stand waving lit cigarettes around. Now this is a game that is not making me healthier, but shows the possibilities of sensors. Here we see the Negative effects of lighting up another smoke to play. However on the flip side, there is this project from Monobanda Play which uses "Breathing Sensors" as the control the player's movement. As you see this was developed for the O-Rift creating that immersive experience.

Games for Dementia

What happens when these to Masters of feedback loops begin to jam together?
Have a look at this other project by Monobanda in collaboration with the TU Delft. This game is called "Active Cues". Apparently "90% of dementia patients suffer from apathy, they are not very active physically during the course of the day." This game was designed specifically to activate patients of dementia in homes. Staff and patients praised the project. Here we see an effective application of motion sensors and the appointment mechanic in conjunction with medical research.

The Medical Check-up Game

When Game Designers and Scientists work together, you can develop projects like the Fitzania. It is, "Part immersive game, part preventative medicine check-up". Patients take a ball "ORB" and walk into an immersive projection game room. The Orb vibrates to give you feedback as the room begins to test your skills with some video games. The Orb has a variety of bio-metric sensors inside, all measuring away as you play. The data collected by the Orb, Fitzania uses to spot diagnosis and updates the player's medical file. Doctor can then look at the "test results" and then say," Your Game came back negative for arthritis," or something along those lines. ( via Stylus )

Here we see Game Designers and Scientists jamming together with feedback loops. Game Design on the "UX" end. Negative and Positive feedback loops processing by the computer for the game-play and data computations in the middle. The Medical staff on the "Diagnosis" end of the loop. It looks like our future will have more play in our medical treatment routines. Just in time for the Gen X Gamers retirement.

Images & videos by monobanda and specular