09 July 2010

Gameworld: Motion games broaden uses beyond exercise

By John Gaudiosi
Thursday, July 8, 2010; 6:30 PM

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - Ever since Nintendo launched the Wii, gamers have been interacting with characters and working out with virtual trainers in titles like Electronic Arts' "EA Sports Active" or Ubisoft's "Your Shape."

Nintendo is even encouraging families to exercise together with "Wii Games: Summer 2010," a national tour that kicks off in Jersey City, New Jersey on July 16 with Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson serving as an ambassador for the competition.

Now researchers, scientists and game developers are using Nintendo's console for many other health-oriented applications, and in some cases are getting millions of dollars in grants to dream up new technologies.

A recent gathering of over 400 top minds at the sixth annual Games for Health Conference in Boston found innovative new ways that video games with motion-sensor controllers are being used to help doctors and patients.

Through a grant from the National Institute of Health, Red Hill Games and the School of Nursing at the University of California San Francisco are using Wii technology to create games that help people with Parkinson's disease improve their balance. One called "Rail Runner" requires patients to stand up and sit down to operate an old-fashioned railroad hand cart.

"Most of these patients are in their 70s and 80s, and they really love these games," said Bob Hone, creative director at Red Hill Studios. "They really want something that's going to address their disease, and what's different is these games are designed specifically for them."

Red Hill is incorporating similar Wii technology into games to help improve gait and balance in kids with Cerebral Palsy.

"These kids sometimes have physical challenges, so we've taken that into account to make games where they feel like they're walking and they get to the finish line successfully," said Hone.

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