Video/Online ’Games For Health’ Come Of Age: Four Major Trends Now Emerging

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Four major emerging trends -- exergaming kicks into high gear, video games go to rehab and therapy, major health care providers arrive on the scene, and the rise of video games for first responders and medical professionals - were highlighted today during a telenews event conducted by organizers of the Games for Health national conference ( taking place May 8-9, 2008 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Drawing on 60 planned presentations by 75 speakers, Games for Health conference highlights trends including:

--  Video games go to rehab and therapy.  In a Games for Health conference
highlight, a version of the popular video game Guitar Hero will be
unveiled that is designed to aid arm amputee rehabilitation ... Red
Hill Studios will present its findings about the use of PDWii to aid
balance and mobility in Parkinson’s patients. PDWii is currently being
developed by Red Hill Studios and the UCSF School of Nursing, with
funding by the NIH. Quantifiable results are being used to track
patient progress and are being integrated into the patient’s overall
regime. Results will be used to benefit further innovations in the
field of games for health ... For younger patients, there is Ditto, a
"multi-modal distraction device" designed to control pain and stress
among patients undergoing burn and orthopedic medical procedures.

-- Exergaming kicks into high gear. One Games For Health panel will
explore how exergaming in gyms and other settings can be used to
combine physical activity and fun. Another presentation will focus on
"Zyked" - a set of online and mobile services designed to be for
working out what Xbox Live! is for videogames. Zyked’s creator Tom
Soderlund will present the basics behind Zyked and report on how the
first batch of user tests are going. Soderlund will also present how
Zyked intends to work with a multitude of portable devices including
digital music players, digital athletic gear and mobile phone
platforms. Dr. Alasdair Thin of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh,
Scotland, will outline in "Go for the Burn: Designing Body-Movement
Controlled Video Games to Maximise Energy Expenditure" his thoughts
about how to future exergame design should work to ensure maximum
health benefits.

-- Major health care providers arrive on the scene. For the first time
ever, a major U.S. health care insurance company, Humana, is a primary
sponsor of the Games for Health conference. The sponsorship reflects
the medical community’s increasing interest in the potential of games.
Representatives from several of the largest health insurance plan
providers in the United States will convene in a plenary session at
the conference to detail the game-related efforts they’ve launched to
date and their view about what is needed for the future to use games
and games technology to solve critical problems in health they and
others are facing ... Another new development: the K.I.C.K. (Kid’s
Interactive Creation Kiosk) is a touch screen system and software
activity package developed with young children in mind. Initial design
of the system was focused on hospital waiting rooms and other similar
healthcare settings. Developed by a team of graduate students at
Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, the project was
originally titled "Project ER" and aimed to lower stress for 60,000
children who visited Pittsburgh Medical Centers ER each year. During
the test run, the project gathered considerable research on how to
deploy such systems in healthcare settings and will share this
knowledge during a case presentation of the K.I.C.K. system. In order
to see games for health play a greater role in settings where
healthcare is delivered, significant hardware and software delivery
problems need to be solved.

-- The rise of games for first responders and medical professionals.
Conference attendees will have an opportunity to play with 3DiTeams.
Funded by the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research
Center (TATRC), 3DiTeams was developed by Virtual Heroes with Duke
University’s Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, and lets
people interact with a fully 3D simulation of emergency health care
environments ... Medical Cyberworlds is a startup in the process of
creating an online multiplayer game to train doctors to communicate
more effectively with their patients. Dr. Fred Kron, the founder and
CEO of the company and Noah Falstein, the lead designer will present
an update at the conference on the state of the project and discuss
the challenging process of encouraging effective collaboration between
physicians, academics, and game developers.

Other conference highlights include a presentation by Nina Fefferman of Tufts University about the "Corrupted Blood Syndrome" content of the popular World of Warcraft online game. In September 2005, designers and programmers at Blizzard Entertainment created new game content for Blizzard’s mega-hit massive multiplayer online game World of Warcraft that inadvertently unleashed an in-game epidemic. Later called the Corrupted Blood Disease, this virtual virus event was well covered in game and technical press but little else about this event and what insights it might offer to epidemiologists has been presented. Fefferman will present her work looking into the Corrupted Blood Disease as an epidemiological event. The talk will cover what knowledge of the event exists outside of Blizzard, developer of World of Warcraft, and based on interviews with Blizzard staff. While this is not the first game-based epidemiological event in a game or virtual world, the Corrupted Blood Disease event is one of the most famous and interesting to date and provides an outline of the roles games can play in improving our understanding and possible responses to such events in the future.

In : PC

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