The German Ministry of Education and Research has approved EUR 1.9 million in funds for a three-year project to develop digital games for treating dementia. The project called “Exgavine: Movement Games in Virtual Reality as a Therapeutic Form for Neurological Diseases” is being conducted by scientists in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hamburg.
Serious games to close gap
In goal setting, racing and thinking games, patients have to solve tasks that demand their motor and cognitive abilities e.g. steering a motorcycle by shifting its weight and solving arithmetic problems. The aim is to improve the patient’s quality of life and to inhibit the progression of the disease. “So far, so-called serious games have been limited to pure training or simple rehabilitation,” said Prof. Dr. Frank Steinicke, co-ordinator of the new Exgavine joint project. “Video games adapted to the needs and sometimes limited abilities of people with neurological diseases are still lacking. We want to close this gap.”
The developed games are to be tested in patients’ everyday lives. In many cases, patients wear VR goggles, which represent a computer-generated environment. The players also wear wristbands, belts or rings containing additional sensors for recording movement. Activities can be recorded and analysed to record the course of therapy and changes. Doctors and specialist staff give feedback on the patient’s performance as reconstructed avatars in the game. The University of Hamburg and the start-up RetroBrain, both of which are in the nextReality Initiative by the City of Hamburg, are partners to the project.