'PE Interactive' used to help treatment and build patients' physical strength and mental health

Motion control game helps children fight cancer

Students at the University of Utah have created a game to help children with cancer during their treatment.

The ‘PE Interactive’ video game has been designed to “increase patients’ physical strength and give them a sense of empowerment to help their mental state whilst fighting their disease”.

Created with Microsoft XNA and played using Sony’s Move motion controller, one level features a retaining wall that must be built to guard island inhabitants from a tsunami, a metaphor for building the patient’s immune system.

The story centres around a super hero exhausted from fighting his arch nemesis, and as the game progresses, he gets “more vibrant and bigger”.

“It is our goal that the patient will relate to the super hero, as they play more, he gets stronger,” game director Roger Altizer says.

The inspiration for the software came when a professor at the university, Grzegorz Bulaj, saw an eight-year old cancer patient using an incentive spirometer and realised it was “nothing more than a game that encourages activity to help healing”.

The spirometer plastic tube in which a patient exhales and raises a ball as high as he can in order to encourage deep breaths and guard against pneumonia.

Bulaj said: “I can’t believe we started talking about this in January, and by September we were able to actually deliver the product to Charlie and patients of Primary Children’s Medical Centre to play.

“This is the kind of difference we can make at a world-class research university. It has been a perfect example of the university’s three-pronged mission of research, education and service.”

The game was created in collaboration between University of Utah’s Engineering, paediatrics, and medicinal chemistry departments.

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