All entries for February 2008

February 29, 2008

Nintendo Wii Balance Board gets you stepping in upcoming Wii Fit title

Follow-up to Obesity, Games and self service architecture from This Life - academic?

Following on from Heather’s comment about the Wii balance board, I have been thinking about additional sensors that could be added, but my thoughts were more along the line of ankle sox with motion sensors so footwork could be added, probably a belt for waist movements and maybe elbow sox for better arm manipulation detection. ( when playing tennis, my son defeats me by doing little flick shots that would not work in real tennis). There has been lots of work in this area though as a simple search will show, see
for example.

Nokia has built and tested a fitness game for children using mobile phones but it appears to be poorly reported. Involves group tasks using location detection and group pressure to get “lazy” members to complete the tasks and score group as well as individual points.
(I will add a link)

A local mobile Phone based company Socoto Studios have built a running/jogging game with similar themes, that helps you join up with other runners ( I believe!).

February 01, 2008

Obesity, Games and self service architecture

The issue of Obese children has been in the news again and the Goverment is determined to do something about it!  Mayo Clinic obesity researcher Lorraine Lanningham-Foster wanted to find out exactly how much energy some games on the market require from children.

"In this day and time, children really love to play video games," Lanningham-Foster told GameSpot. "And even though we might want children to be outside and engaged in more traditional children's play, I don't think that children are going to abandon video games anytime soon...It's important to look at it this way because video gaming may potentially be a better way for obesity researchers to develop better interventions for children."

The research involved a group of 25 children, 10 of which are described as "mildly obese". The children were tested in 5 separate states of activity...

1.      Sitting watching television

2.      Sitting and playing a traditional game (Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure)

3.      Playing activity demanding game (Nicktoons Movin (PS2)

4.      Playing activity demanding game ( Dance Revolution Ultramix 2 (Xbox)

5.      Walking on threadmill at 1.5mph while watching television

The study concluded that the children burned the same amount of calories while sitting watching TV and when playing a traditional game. However, playing the Jellyfish Jam game on Nicktoons Movin' tripled the calories burned, with the obese children burning 5 times as many calories as they would sitting watching TV.

The most energy intensive of all the activities was playing Dance Dance Revolution, with the obese children burning 6 times as many calories than when sitting still. "Activity-promoting video games have the potential to increase energy expenditure in children to a degree similar to that of traditional playtime," the researchers concluded. "We think that converting seat-based screen time to activity-associated screen time is an essential approach for promoting an active environment that is also fun for children."

Since the study was completed months before Nintendo's Wii console was released, the researchers didn't get a chance to test the effects of its activity-oriented nature. "I haven't had a chance to do some studies with it, but it's something I'd love to have the opportunity to do," Lanningham-Foster said. "The technology there is actually quite similar to some of the technology we use to monitor physical activity in children."

Howvere there has been some none fully scientific study (but pretty good in my opinion). Philadelphia resident Mickey DeLorenzo decided to see if there is anything to the belief that Nintendo's Wii console can help you to lose weight while also being fun to use. He came up with an idea for an experiment while playing the Wii Sports boxing game with his partner. "On the fly, as I was typing my blog posts, I set up a daily regimen and went at it 100 percent," said DeLorenzo

He used the Wii console for 6 weeks, at 30 minutes per day, while not altering his diet in any way or stopping himself from indulging over the holidays. When all was done, he had lost nine pounds. He chronicled his progress on his blog at, which includes before and after pictures.

"Seeing the 'before' and 'after' pictures, I am going to keep doing it. I am going to add some weights to the next round because I don't want to shrink to nothing," said DeLorenzo. He has never dieted or exercised for weightless in his life before this. A fitness Web site already has asked him to help it create "Wii workouts" and he already owns the Internet address, which just links to his blog for now.  (from CNN)

One has to wonder that if Nintendo's DS console armed with Brain Training exercises can have such a good effect (a fact that yours truly can vouch for), will Nintendo call up the experts and try to put together a title that aims at giving the gamer a good workout?

So whats the conclusion? It seems to be that the right kind of computer games can help fight obesity. If we accept that the addictive nature of computer games and the difficulty that children have with going out with friends to play means that children will play computer games, we can help with providing some games of the right type.

So if we were designing a game for children 5 to 15 years old to play what would it be, and on what platform?

Well the choice of platform ranges from Interactive DVD to PC's, PS2/3, X BOX, WII as well as the handhelds of which Sony PSP and Nintendo DS seem the most popular. There are also a whole batch of single game custom toys out there that come with a Camera/Processor unit, a  reflective controller ( I have the Star Wars (has a light sabre) and the Lord of the Rings (has a orc sword) versions). There is also the option of a Mobile Phone based games, making use of bluetooth capability. ( I was suprised to see that the biggest "game" in the shopping malls of Dubai was a Bluetooth based flirting and dating!)

So what kind of game on any of the main games platforms would contain the right elements? Well one game I have played in real life that made me exercise and seems to contain most of the right elements for conversion to computers is the Legoland Fire Rescue Game. See the (not very good video of it here).

The game is great fun and certainly very exausting. The motions required are fairly simple and thus easy to detect and incorporate.  Competition elements are needed but there are a whole range of possibilities.

I am also interested in the the use of facebook/myspace based games. Now that the API's are available an interactive game that schedules single and joint activities with assembled groups (assembled through Facebook). We need to make sure that they could happen at a safe place, and despite what you may think, I think MacDonalds would be a good partner for such a project. These would be based on the geo cacheing/ treasure hunt type formats.

While on the subject of soacial networking sites...... I saw a great blog about how the architecture of Facebook is actually fantastic for for the kind of customer controlled services we may see in the future. For example, the NHS, Google and Microsft are building Electronic Patients medical records systems, ( think about Facebook. Its keeps your records, allows you to control who can see them and to what level of detail, build communities (of Dr's, Nurses, Family) around particular topics etc. This may actually be the general model for customer driven services in the future.

See ( The following is a short extract from Bobs article.

The first question is how are the requirements for an EMR system solved though the functionality provided by a social network?

  1. Patient-centric: I think a huge missing piece in today’s EMR systems is patient interaction. Most are only concerned with data presentation, record management, and billing functions for the physician. Except for a few limited read-only web portals, the patient does not have the ability to add content or even interact with their own medical record. An important paradigm shift would be that the physician would seek out and gain permission to access the patients private medical account, not the other way around.
  2. Patient-Doctor interaction: By not allowing the patient to have interactive control over their health information you are also limiting their ability to interact with their physician(s). Also, if multiple physicians were able to have a common platform for patient consultations it would save time, confusion, and duplication. Patients and their doctors can be thought of as a group of friends that need to interact in a unique way.
  3. Multi-media: If teenagers can share music and video, why can’t patients and doctors share symptoms and test results just as easily? Also, the improved Web 2.0 interactivity holds a lot of promise for innovations in the presentation of medical data (e.g. Silverlight comes to mind).
  4. Security: Nothing is perfect, but I think the Web has already proven itself secure. Think about the number of Web sites where you’ve left your credit card number, let alone if you’re like me you do all of your banking on-line. HIPAA standards can most certainly be met with current Web technology.

As the article points out:

In Facebook’s vision of the Web, you, the user, are in control of your persona.

The same should be said for your personal health information.

Bob makes a good case for Electronic Patient Record via a Facebook type system. It is also interesting to consider it for all user controlled type of services.

February 2008

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