In general, this project is focused on understanding, designing, and developing games to encourage people to start and maintain exercise. Early stages of this project have concentrated on older adults, aiming to find the factors that play an important role in motivating older adults to maintain a physical exercise routine, a habit recommended by doctors but difficult to sustain. Our initial data gathering includes (a) interviews with experts in aging and physical therapy in order to understand the types of exercise and physical health concerns applicable to this age group, and (b) focus groups and playtests with older adults to understand their attitudes towards exercise, technology, and merging the two in our prototype game. We have implemented an early prototype game that uses the Microsoft Kinect SDK to track the user’s body and provide visual feedback that the exercise is being done correctly.
Project Findings and Status
This project began in summer of 2011 and is currently underway. Major findings include:
- Older adults need to focus on improving through exercise flexibility, strengthening, walking, and balance [Ganesan & Anthony, CHI 2012]. A good versatile exercise that can improve both flexibility and strengthening is side arm raises.
- Older adults can find walking alone for exercise to be intimidating and welcome an opportunity for enjoyable exercise within the safety and comfort of their own home [Ganesan & Anthony, CHI 2012].
- Older adults have a variety of abilities and comfort levels with technology; therefore, any technological solution to exercise gaming must provide intuitive controls and feedback in a variety of modalities (e.g., design for vision-impaired or hearing-impaired users) [Ganesan & Anthony, CHI 2012].
Current project status: We have redesigned some of the features to incorporate more game elements, to refine the user interface, and to increase the complexity of the exercises supported. Next steps include more play-tests with older adults, iterative development of the game to add motivational features, and evaluation of the game’s success in encouraging older adults to maintain an exercise regimen. We also plan to extend this methodology to exercise games for children, especially children with physical disabilities.
Check out the About the Team page to see brief bios of the people involved in this project. Our papers and presentations can be found on the Papers & Talks page, and don’t forget to watch our Video Demos! All these links are also at the top of this page.