A Video Game for Physically Impaired Patients

A novel motor-training paradigm.

A Video Game for Physically Impaired Patients
Image: Pixabay

Scientists at the Imperial College, London have developed a video game dubbed Balloon Buddies, especially for physically impaired patients. The game mimics as a tool that helps patients to overcome conditions like a stroke to engage and play together with healthy volunteers.

Makers designed the game at the playing field level that asks healthy players to support the less able player. Such partnership of good and less able players could be more rewarding and challenging for both. Both have to continuously work together to score points.

A Video Game for Physically Impaired Patients
Overview of the Balloon BuddiesTM game. a A screenshot from the game, b the three performance metrics defined within the game: number of collected stars, accuracy (based on the distance between the buddy centre and the ideal trajectory), which should be > 30% of the buddy’s diameter h and stability (based on the distance between the two ends of the beam), which should be > 20% of the buddy’s diameter h. c, d Different scenarios are shown highlighting the local redundancy of the game, i.e. errors can be accommodated (c), but neither player can slack as both inputs are required (d)

The game Balloon Buddies, uses animation, sounds, and vibration-feedback, similar to conventional video games. It can be played by balancing a ball on a beam, which is lifted at each of its ends by balloons controlled by the players.

The main objective of it to vary the height of the beam so that the ball collides with moving targets in order to collect points. Players are also required to work together to keep the beam horizontal so that the ball doesn’t roll off the platform. It is played with a wireless handgrip called GripAble, enabling people with arm weakness to control video games on any standard tablet device.

Dr Michael Mace, lead author of the study said, “Video games are a great way of providing repetitive exercise to help patients recover from debilitating illnesses. However, most games are designed for users to play on their own, which can actually discourage and isolate many patients.”

“We developed the Balloon Buddy game to enable patients to train with their friends, family or caregivers in a collaborative and playful manner. The technology is still being developed, but we have shown that playing jointly with another individual may lead to increased engagement and better outcomes for patients.”

A Video Game for Physically Impaired Patients
Experimental Description. a Hemiparetic patient and healthy expert playing the game on a tablet by controlling a grip transducer; b grip force controls balloon size and height; c healthy-healthy experimental protocol; d patient-expert experimental protocol

During trials, scientists found that the execution of the patient was helped when they played with a solid volunteer, contrasted to the event that they were playing all alone. The poorer a patient’s single player execution was, the more noteworthy the change was seen when they played with another amid double player mode.

According to scientists, this improvement could benefit patient in order to recover from other illnesses such as musculoskeletal injuries, arthritis, and cerebral palsy.

Scientists are further planning to develop the game alongside new multiplayer concepts. They will also examine if the game leads to more efficient learning. Moreover, they will also explore social implications of interaction such as the effect of patients playing with a relative versus a stranger.