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Emerging Developments Outlined As Games for Health Conference Gets Underway; Health-Oriented Innovations – Such as Guitar Hero Modified for Arm Ampute

BALTIMORE and WASHINGTON, May 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/Four major emerging trends — exergaming kicks into high gear, video games go to rehab and therapy, major health care providers arrive on the scene, and the rise of video games for first responders and medical professionals – were highlighted today during a telenews event conducted by organizers of the Games for Health national conference ( taking place May 8-9, 2008 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Drawing on 60 planned presentations by 75 speakers, Games for Health conference highlights trends including:

  • Video games go to rehab and therapy. In a Games for Health conference highlight, a version of the popular video game Guitar Hero will be unveiled that is designed to aid arm amputee rehabilitation … Red Hill Studios will present its findings about the use of PDWii to aid balance and mobility in Parkinson’s patients. PDWii is currently being developed by Red Hill Studios and the UCSF School of Nursing, with funding by the NIH. Quantifiable results are being used to track patient progress and are being integrated into the patient’s overall regime. Results will be used to benefit further innovations in the field of games for health … For younger patients, there is Ditto, a “multi-modal distraction device” designed to control pain and stress among patients undergoing burn and orthopedic medical procedures.
  • Exergaming kicks into high gear. One Games For Health panel will explore how exergaming in gyms and other settings can be used to combine physical activity and fun. Another presentation will focus on “Zyked” – a set of online and mobile services designed to be for working out what Xbox Live! is for videogames. Zyked’s creator Tom Soderlund will present the basics behind Zyked and report on how the first batch of user tests are going. Soderlund will also present how Zyked intends to work with a multitude of portable devices including digital music players, digital athletic gear and mobile phone platforms. Dr. Alasdair Thin of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, will outline in “Go for the Burn: Designing Body-Movement Controlled Video Games to Maximise Energy Expenditure” his thoughts about how to future exergame design should work to ensure maximum health benefits.
  • Major health care providers arrive on the scene. For the first time ever, a major U.S. health care insurance company, Humana, is a primary sponsor of the Games for Health conference. The sponsorship reflects the medical community’s increasing interest in the potential of games. Representatives from several of the largest health insurance plan providers in the United States will convene in a plenary session at the conference to detail the game-related efforts they’ve launched to date and their view about what is needed for the future to use games and games technology to solve critical problems in health they and others are facing … Another new development: the K.I.C.K. (Kid’s Interactive Creation Kiosk) is a touch screen system and software activity package developed with young children in mind. Initial design of the system was focused on hospital waiting rooms and other similar healthcare settings. Developed by a team of graduate students at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, the project was originally titled “Project ER” and aimed to lower stress for 60,000 children who visited Pittsburgh Medical Centers ER each year. During the test run, the project gathered considerable research on how to deploy such systems in healthcare settings and will share this knowledge during a case presentation of the K.I.C.K. system. In order to see games for health play a greater role in settings where healthcare is delivered, significant hardware and software delivery problems need to be solved.
  • The rise of games for first responders and medical professionals. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to play with 3DiTeams. Funded by the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), 3DiTeams was developed by Virtual Heroes with Duke University’s Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, and lets people interact with a fully 3D simulation of emergency health care environments … Medical Cyberworlds is a startup in the process of creating an online multiplayer game to train doctors to communicate more effectively with their patients. Dr. Fred Kron, the founder and CEO of the company and Noah Falstein, the lead designer will present an update at the conference on the state of the project and discuss the challenging process of encouraging effective collaboration between physicians, academics, and game developers.

Other conference highlights include a presentation by Nina Fefferman of Tufts University about the “Corrupted Blood Syndrome” content of the popular World of Warcraft online game. In September 2005, designers and programmers at Blizzard Entertainment created new game content for Blizzard’s mega-hit massive multiplayer online game World of Warcraft that inadvertently unleashed an in-game epidemic. Later called the Corrupted Blood Disease, this virtual virus event was well covered in game and technical press but little else about this event and what insights it might offer to epidemiologists has been presented. Fefferman will present her work looking into the Corrupted Blood Disease as an epidemiological event. The talk will cover what knowledge of the event exists outside of Blizzard, developer of World of Warcraft, and based on interviews with Blizzard staff. While this is not the first game-based epidemiological event in a game or virtual world, the Corrupted Blood Disease event is one of the most famous and interesting to date and provides an outline of the roles games can play in improving our understanding and possible responses to such events in the future.


Founded in 2004, the Games for Health Project supports community, knowledge and business development efforts to use cutting-edge games and game technologies to improve health and health care. The Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the lead conference sponsor and a major supporter of the Games for Health Project. Over three days, more than 300 attendees will participate in over 60 sessions provided by an international array of 75 speakers, cutting across a wide range of activities in health and health care. Topics include exergaming, physical therapy, disease management, health behavior change, biofeedback, epidemiology, training, cognitive exercise, nutrition and health education. This year’s conference includes presentations by Dr. Richard Satava; Starlight Foundation; HopeLab; Realtime Associates; Virtual Heroes; XRtainment Zone; Archimage; Dr. Mark Baldwin of MindHabits; Electric Owl Studios; Noah Falstein of The Inspiracy; and Games for Health co-founder Ben Sawyer.

The Games for Health Project is produced by the Serious Games Initiative, a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars effort that applies cutting-edge games and game technologies to a range of public and private policy, leadership and management issues. The project also produces the Games for Health Conference, now in its fourth year. The Initiative founded Games for Health to develop a community and best practices platform for the numerous games being built for health care applications. To date, the project has brought together researchers, medical professionals and game developers to share information about the impact games and game technologies can have on health, health care and policy. For more information, visit

EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of the Games for Health telenews event held today will be available on the Web at as of 6 p.m. EDT.


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