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Games for Health Fourth Annual Conference 2008 will be held from May 8 – May 9 in Baltimore MD. The Serious Games Initiative, a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is the force behind this project. The goal is to spark the impact of games and game technologies on healthcare and policy.

There’s always buzz about Health 2.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0 etc, but in my opinion, the next big thing will be Medutainment. Can you see a bunch of healthcare professionals discussing during lunch, the latest clinical trials for a drug x or rather that “cool medical game” they just played or the new XBOX game that is helping pediatric patients with disorders cope with their condition?

marble-blast-ultra-20051221062258837.jpgTo the numerous list of health innovations the Wii can do, we add in improving surgery performance by 50%.

The BBC reports that researchers at the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center studied eight surgeon trainees who trained for an hour on a Wii before performing 50% better on a virtual surgery simulator. Their scores excelled in the areas of tool control and overall performance as compared to those who did not.

The game in question is called Marble Mania, which involves moving a marble through a 3D maze.

To be fair, the researchers should pit these “Wii-surgeons” against those who meditate, visualize, pray, or perform hand exercise before surgery.

In any case, the researchers claim that the fine movement of a ball through a maze are complementary to skills which would help a surgeon in surgery.  They also suggested that perhaps spending $250 for a surgery prep device is a great alternative for poorer countries to train their surgeons as compared to buying an expensive surgery virtual simulator.

Read more on: Health Games, Medutainment, Tech

Crayon Physics Deluxe is a game developed by Kloonigames. It is a sequel to the freeware game, Crayon Physics. The creator describes the game as a “2D physics puzzle game” in which objects that you draw are transformed to objects that can physically interact with one another on your Tablet PC. The challenge of the game is to solve puzzles using your artistic vision and creativity. Crayon Physics Deluxe is still in development and will launch soon.

This is an interesting concept that can be applied to foster a child’s development and creativity. While technology such as LeapFrog develops a child’s math and spelling skills, games such as Crayon Physics Deluxe will foster their problem-solving skills and introduce kids to relationships between objects.

Description of video above: Paraplegic patient navigates through a virtual world using a brain-computer interface with 90% accuracy.

paraple.jpgTwo teams that met at a European consortium called PRESCENCCIA are teaming up to create a virtual world where users may navigate through a virtual environment using their mind. The team from Graz University of Technology in Austria, specializes in measuring signals from the brain through electrodes. The other team, from the University of College London (UCL), UK builds virtual reality worlds [NewScientistTech].

In a recent study, users guided an avatar (virtual reality figure) through a virtual environment using direct thought. EEG recordings were recorded as the users imagined moving his legs and arms. The readings were then linked to visuals presented on the computer monitor. 75%-90% of users in the virtual reality world were able to use thoughts associated with movement to walk an avatar through the environment while waving to other virtual characters.

This research may prove to be a means for patients with severe neuromuscular disorders to communicate as well as provide a possible tool as rehabilitation for stroke patients. Perhaps one day this technology may link patients to “exo-skeletons” and allow them to perform regular tasks through direct thoughts.

Pulse is a virtual-clinical training tool for nursing and medical students. The game’s purpose is to develop skills from time management to quick thinking. Pulse!! is funded by the Office of Naval Research and developed by BreakAway, a developer that has made several simulations for emergency response teams as well as for military purposes.

Students walk through the Pulse!! environment as if playing a first-person shooter, but taking the role of a medical physician in order to talk and interact with patients in order to obtain information to assess his condition. The game’s sound and movements are realistic, which is to be expected since the Breakaway developers work closely with physicians and nurses to ensure accuracy of symptoms, injuries, as well as movements of a real-life medical team during an emergency.

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Perform Open Heart Surgery Online
Assume the role of a surgeon to perform a coronary bypass surgery. There are 3 levels of difficulty (intern, surgeon, specialist) and the game is based upon a real operation.

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How well do you know the human body?
Images are provided to the user and he must be experienced enough to match the image to the correct body part on Jerome.

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Performing Hip Surgery
Become a surgeon and perform a hip surgery.

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Other Related resources
Bringing fitness into games
Games help children escape reality of burn unit
The making of Remission by HopeLabs

rocologoforsite.gifInspire Foundation has developed a game called Reach Out Central! (ROC), that “promotes positive youth mental health by adapting content from effective psychological intervention.” The game provides an interactive environment for those ages 16-25 years to identify and deal with depression, anger, and anxiety. According to Inspire, 1 in 5 young people experience some sort of mental health problem yet only 29% seek clinical help, most often turning to the internet for support. The foundation hopes that ROC will help these young people to deal with their mental problems.

The game is fairly easy to play. In a snapshot, you are in a new town and must make new friends by learning to communicate with characters in the game. Initiating conversation with another computer character will stimulate a short chat that provides you with a list of possible responses. After the conversation, you can check the game character’s bio and their “affinity rating” with you during the contact. In addition, you may participate in activities that would either increase or decrease you stress level. Think of the game as a “Choose your adventure book,” but in this case, it’s a “Choose your emotion” game.

ROC puts a twist to anger or depression management. It allows users to discover the right and wrong ways of dealing with different situations in a safe, comfortable environment. The graphics in the game are amazing, the music makes it seem hip to play, and the game works both in FireFox as well as Internet Explorer.

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Figure 1. Picture of a player’s virtual room

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Figure 2. Learning to talk to Mom

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[Last modified: 12/08/07]