EXERGAMES DOWNLOAD A POSITIVE HEALTH CHECK 4 COMPUTER GAMING

Computer gaming, branded a major contributor to inactivity and obesity, is undergoing a radical rehabilitation as a healthy pastime thanks to new innovative Exergames.

Computer games that incorporate physical activity – or Exergames – are at the heart of a digital environment being created to support wellness and healthy living.

Scottish gaming companies with a global reputation as leaders in the industry are now being encouraged to join the fight against obesity which is predicted to affect 60% of men and 50% of women in the UK by 2050.

The call to target the wellness market comes as it is estimated that the cost to the NHS of treating the health related effects of obesity will increase to £9.7 billion a year and the wider cost to the economy will be almost £50 billion in 40 years time.

The move to encourage Scottish gaming companies to develop Exergames is being led by Wellness and Health Innovation (WHI) the leading support service for small businesses in the wellness and health sector in Scotland.

A White Paper entitled “Sports Wellness and Exergaming: Gaming4Life” written by Dr Alasdair G Thin, Lecturer in Human Physiology at Heriot-Watt University has been published by WHI.

His report says: “Replacing the sedentary component of video game play with physical exertion while maintaining the game play elements is a very attractive proposition.”

It adds: “Exergaming and Sport Wellness in general have the potential to transform exercise that is tedious and discomforting into a form that is appealing.”

He says that the preponderance of lifestyle factors underlying the major health problems facing the developed world today means that governments are by and large powerless to tackle these issues directly. They can only empower people to make the right lifestyle decisions.

But he argues there has until very recently been a “gaping omission” in considering digital technology as a supportive environment for helping people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

While improved technology to detect body movement coupled with improved game design will increase the level of calorie burn of Exergames evidence is emerging that they also deliver psychological and social benefits.

The White Paper was launched at a recent meeting of 60 of Scotland’s key individuals in the Wellness & Health and gaming industries in Scotland at the Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education at Abertay University in Dundee.

Mark Taylor, a Microsoft Senior Director, highlighted the company’s ‘Kinect’ project as an innovative Exergame development.

‘Kinect’ is an interactive Exergaming experience designed to take the Nintendo Wii to the next stage. With no controllers and no fit board, the user can experience the full interactive games experience just by using gestures.

He also explained how Kinect is not just about physical wellness and how Microsoft is looking to develop applications to support independent assisted living.

He introduced the audience to Milo, a fully interactive computer generated ‘person’ who is intelligent enough to learn about the person it interacts with while the user learns about Milo. Milo displays emotions, gestures and can converse, all generated through a small device that sits at the top of a TV. The more you interact with Milo, the more Milo interacts with you. It is seen to have endless possibilities especially for housebound patients such as stroke victims, rehabilitation patients and disabled people.

Microsoft has called on Scottish gamers and developers to work with them to develop additional solutions and applications to sit alongside Kinect.

Janette Hughes, WHI Project Manager, said: “It is ironic that computer games have been blamed as one of the main causes of people becoming obese, sitting on the sofa, eating fast food and failing to exercise. Now gaming companies have realised they can utilise their software to help people become more active and reverse the obesity trend. Scotland already has some exciting new products in this area but the potential is massive for those companies prepared to invest in this emerging and exciting market.”

Jeff Meek, Head of Technology and Media at accountants, French Duncan LLP, said that such an important conference reflected the fact that Dundee remains at the heart of innovation in the computer games sector with its development of serious games.

Notes

Organised by Wellness and Health Innovation, the leading support service for small businesses in the wellness and health sector in Scotland, the Gaming4Life event showcased some of Scotland’s early stage ‘wellness and health sports products’ including:

Funky Moves – a company offering a novel approach to physical activity and sports by utilising technology in new ways, through interactive cones that play a sequence of different games

The Fit Zone – a revolutionary new piece of sports equipment designed to help people of all ages engage in a fitness program and

Motomedia – a simple and easy to use interactive activity games platform.

Dr. Thin’s White Paper can be viewed here.

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