Phaedra Boinodiris, serious games program manager at IBM, writes a guest editorial on Forbes exploring the way that games can be used to energize and enhance other things besides research projects. The point of her editorial is that researchers have been helped greatly by games created to solve problems that take advantage of "collective intelligence," and global participation.
A teen from Cupertino, California has won a $100,000 science prize for research on cancer stem cells and two teens from Oak Ridge, Tennessee won the top team honor for using a video game to conduct research on the science of walking to benefit amputees who rely on prosthetics. The 17-year-old, Angela Zhang, won the top honors at the Siemens Foundation’s annual high school science competition. The top team prize went to two students from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for their research using gaming technology to analyze motion while walking.
While those who don't know anything at all about video games are quick to use them as an excuse for many of society’s ills (crime, violence, obesity, attention deficit and a myriad of psychological disorders), now everyone thinks they are bad. In fact a growing number of academics see the value in video games as teaching aids. For example, a Yale professor is trying to use them to teach sex education.
Parents with children suffering from amblyopia (referred to by some as "Lazy Eye") frequently have trouble with kids refusing to do vision correction exercises. Since these exercises are important to correcting this type of vision problem, parents need tools to make the activity more fun and engaging for youngsters. Correction of amblyopia typically involves some sort of repetitive coordinative exercise, such as navigating a maze on paper, drawing lines on paper, etc. The problem is that some kids find these activities to be tedious and unchallenging.
Want to look good naked?
Sure, we all do. But would you believe that gamers might have an easier time of it then most? It’s true. The qualities that gamers apply to their hobby can easily be applied to bodybuilding.
When Brian Wang and Dick Talens (pictured. Yeah, they're both the same guy) met at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004, neither one was physically fit but both found that what drove them to play games could also be applied to working out.
Red Hill Studios is using the motion technology found in the Xbox 360 and Wii consoles to help people with Parkinson's disease improve their gait and balance. Researchers have used the technology to help stroke victims in a similar fashion, so aiming the technology at other afflictions makes perfect sense. Red Hill is collaborating with the UCSF School of Nursing to develop the game.
A new video game called Focus Pocus hopes to help children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by having them control their game characters with their brain waves through 12 mini-games. The game incorporates a real-time electroencephalography (commonly referred to as EEG, or defined as "recording electrical activity along the scalp") headset to measure and improve impulse control, memory, attention and relaxation in children.
Researchers at the University of Utah have developed a motion-controlled game that helps children with cancer cope with their illness by promoting good mental health and physical fitness. The game, which was developed by chemistry professor Grzegorz Bulaj, is called PE Interactive (PE stands for "patient empowerment").
A new research project from the University of the Fraser Valley (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) uses video games to help test the motor skills of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (or FASD). UFV has been running the after-school program, FAST Club, for children with FASD for the past three years. But this year brings a new element to the program - video games. The after-school video game program called BrainGamers Club helps children with FASD work on their motor skills and gaming skills, and measures whether the impact of these activities cross over into other areas.
Organizers of the Gamification Summit announced this morning that they have finalized the agenda and speaker program for the September 15-16 conference occurring in New York City. That agenda includes keynotes, featured talks, design intensives, panels, and workshops that (they hope) teach and inform attendees on the subject. GSummit promises to bring together experts from advertising, healthcare, education, government, media, e-commerce, startups and academia to share knowledge and improve engagement with consumers and employees by using gamification techniques.
Researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, Australia, are building a virtual heart to study the fatal effects that electrical disturbances can have on patients. This virtual heart, a real-time computer simulator, will allow medical researchers to study how structural changes to the body's most vital organ can interfere with its beating.
Chicago-based technology firm ImmersiveTouch has been working in consultation with the Memphis-based Medical Education & Research Institute (MERI) on surgery simulator technology that looks and feels like a next-generation video game. The inventors say that while it might be video game-like, it has far more serious implications for medical training and surgery.
MERI does not have a financial stake in the company or in the simulator, but many of the doctors and surgeons who pass through the training center have offered their input in developing the product.
"We are engineers. We are not physicians," said Cristian Luciano, Sensimmer's co-inventor and ImmersiveTouch vice president. "The needs that are coming from the physicians and surgeons drive the (product development) efforts as we produce solutions for them."
Konami, along with health professionals, policy makers, students, parents, and teachers, across West Virginia are heading to Charleston later this month to address childhood obesity. Konami is spearheading an event - the Childhood Obesity Summit - to discuss the best ways to deal with the issue. The company will also host the second annual DanceDanceRevolution West Virginia State Championship Tournament at the same time.
The West Virginia University Extension Service, West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), and Konami organized the summit to promote collaboration and develop a referral base for coordinated prevention and treatment of childhood obesity statewide.
Algoma Games for Health, a development team at Algoma University that specializes in developing serious games for educational and rehabilitation purposes, has received a cash injection from Ontario's provincial funding. The team will use the $713,200 to develop a game that will help stroke victims at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre. The news was announced by MPP David Orazietti. The program will combine video conferencing, voice recognition and therapeutic video games to provide an online platform to help improve speech therapy.
"We are continuing to build on the progress we have made improving health care infrastructure and front-line services in Sault Ste. Marie by making investments that are delivering measurable results, including this initiative that will provide stoke victims with interactive rehabilitation therapy to help improve their quality of life," said Orazietti.
Serious games developer Red Hill Studios has developed a series of games designed specifically to help Parkinson's patients using physical therapy. Red Hill is working with the UCSF School of Nursing on the software, which uses Microsoft's Kinect. The software offers users specific motions and gestures that have been proven effective in improving the gait and balance of those suffering from the disease.
"These games demonstrate the value of combining innovative health game designers with a top flight clinical team," said Bob Hone, creative director of Red Hill Studios. "Creating games that are both fun to play and provide concrete medical benefits takes a special kind of team. We are much more than the sum of our parts."
From Red Hill's web site:
The seventh annual Games for Health Conference is one week away and organizers are reminding anyone that wants to attend that the registration period is almost over. The three day event dedicated to the convergence of games and the medical field takes place May 17-19 in Boston, MA.
Over the course of the annual three day conference over 120 speakers will participate in over 100 talks covering a variety of topics including medical simulations, serious games, game research, and new video game technologies that are being used to advance the healthcare field in the real world.
Speakers include Dr. Martin Seligman from The Positive Psychology Center (University of Pennsylvania); Dr. Roni Zeiger from Google; Shellie Pfohl; Executive Director of The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; and many more. The event will also offer two networking receptions, contests, group activities, fourth annual Games Accessibility Day, various workshops, and more.
A new web site called Anti-AgingGames.com launches today, offering brain fitness optimized for "mentally healthy people" over the age of 35. The site is the brainchild of Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, who serves as advisor and as the company’s chief game visionary. The company also announced that 20 percent of its pre-tax profits will be given to charity.
The site will offer visitors "scientifically-based brain fitness games" optimized for mentally healthy people over age 35, for a monthly subscription fee. Brain training activities include memory, concentration and focus games, as well as games that provide relaxation and stress reduction.
Harmonix Music System co-founder Alex Rigopulos has personally donated $10,000 to the disabled gaming charity the AbleGamers Foundation. The company will also work with AbleGamers to learn what it can do in the future to make games such as Rock Band and Dance Central more accessible to gamers with disabilities:
"I believe that finding ways to better accommodate people with disabilities is a vitally important responsibility for the videogame industry. Harmonix is working with the AbleGamers Foundation to learn what we can do in future products to be as inclusive as possible," said Rigopulos. "I hope that my support of the AbleGamers Foundation will inspire others within this industry to do the same."
A team of students are using Wii Balance Board in concert with specialized motion-tracking system software to help patients with physical therapy. A team of undergraduates at Rice University in Texas have found that this method is a cost-effective way of helping patients recover from serious injuries. The team has linked five Wii Balance Boards together between a pair of handrails, used with a balance training system they created. The system is mostly being used with children at the moment.
The seventh annual Games for Health conference is gearing up for its launch on May 18 and registration is opened for those planning to attend. From May 18 – 19 (registration on March 17), join hundreds of game developers, health professionals, and leading researchers will attend the event to brainstorm and debate how video games and video game technologies that can work to improve health and healthcare.
The winners of the Youth Prize for original game designs have been selected by the National STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Video Game Challenge. The 12 U.S. students (grades 5-8) were announced by United States chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra.
The science-themed "You Make Me Sick!" was awarded the Grand Prize in the Developer Prize category, and a collection of math games called "NumberPower: Numbaland!" received the Collegiate and Impact prizes. Filament Games' Dan Norton and Dan White won the grand prize, and will receive $50,000 for their game about bacteria and viruses.
Chuck Bittner is disabled, a gamer, and in need of your John Hancock for a good cause. Chuck, who is the star of the web site, AskACapper.com, has put up an online petition asking video game console makers and game developers to allow consumers to reconfigure button configurations. Companies he is making this appeal to include Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Zipper Interactive, Infinity Ward, and Treyarch - though in general he would like ALL game developers to support remapping controller functions in games.
The reason he wants to have the ability to remap keys in games and on consoles is to make setting up configurations for those with disabilities a lot easier. You can read the entire petition below, but I urge you to visit it online and sign it:
Tickets for the 2011 Gamification Summit have sold out according to the event's organizers. Organizers say that, for those who were not able to purchase tickets, live streaming coverage via Fora.tv will be available. Those who register to watch the live streaming coverage before January 14 will receive special $149 early bird pricing. After January 14, the rate will go up to $199. In case you've never heard of it, gamification is the use of game mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences in a non-gaming environment.
At the event, Liz Gannes of AllThingsDigital will interview Jane McGonigal, author of "Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Help Us Change the World." Liz Gannes has been covering Silicon Valley business technology since 2004 and is the founder of NewTeeVee. Additional speakers include the CMO of RecycleBank Samantha Skey, Ian Bogost of Georgia Institute of Technology and Evan Tanna of Shopkick.
The Entertainment Consumers Association's ECA Institute (ECAi) officially launches a new work group called Gamers for Health. The goal of the group is to help ECA members and gamers at large incorporate gaming activities into healthy lifestyles by providing resources and tools that are effective in those areas.
Launching today, this destination for healthy gaming offers a place for gamers everywhere to join the various programs that help get you fit by gaming.
Valve has always been keen to track user data and use it to improve its games, but many may not know that the company has always been acutely aware that some of its players may have special needs in order to play many of their most popular games. Speaking to Gamasutra Mike Ambinder of Valve Software explains some of the things the company does to help players with different kinds of disabilities:
"Most of the accommodations we make for disabled gamers (closed captioning/subtitles, colorblind mode, in-game pausing in single player, easier difficulty levels, re-mappable keys/buttons, open-microphones, mouse sensitivity settings, use of both mouse and keyboard and gamepads, etc.) stem from functionality added to improve the experience of both able and disabled gamers," Ambinder tells Gamasutra.
The Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas is taking part in a psychological study that examines the effects of virtual reality game on pain tolerance during physical and occupational therapy.
Funded by a National Institutes of Health grant and conducted by the University of Washington, the study uses a video game called SnowWorld with young burn patients to see how the game helps them during physical and occupational therapy. These two types of therapies are collectively called rehabilitative therapy, and are essential to the recovery of patients suffering burn injuries.
As burns heal, the affected areas of the body tend to tighten causing constrictions of the skin, and making mobility a challenge to patients. Therapies and exercises that address these issues are common, but also lead to discomfort. Patients often report an increase in pain levels.
A study published online and set to appear in the pages of the January 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that games can be used to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Researchers are looking for new ways to combat the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes in young people. One of the ways to combat this is an increased intake of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, fruit juices, and water. Researchers hypothesized going into this study that video games designed to support healthy lifestyles would have a positive effect on children who played them.