Visiting Scholar Eléa Thuilier presents research on exergames and Osteoporosis

On February 29th, visiting scholar, Eléa Thuilier presented her research to the Waterloo community at the Games Institute. Eléa’s work focuses on designing and assessing virtual rehabilitation through Exergames for people with Osteoporosis. She is a PhD student at the University of Galway in Ireland with a background in Software and Computer Science engineering.

Osteoporosis is a disease that decreases the density and mass of bones, which can lead to chronic pain and discomfort, reduced mobility, and increased risk of bone fracture. Known ways to prevent bone fractures include staying active and eating a balanced diet filled with calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients that help sustain bone density. Eléa explained that issues with rehabilitation arise when people with Osteoporosis lack the time or motivation, feel a sense of boredom or fear, or have financial concerns that prevent them from engaging in exercise.

Exergames are interactive media that require the user to use targeted movements to participate in the game. Eléa’s research uses augmented reality (AR) equipment (as opposed to the more immersive VR) to allow the users to see any hazards in their environment and prioritize safety while also allowing the game interface to be on display. Eléa has designed AR exergames to promote more regular physical activity. Her designed have prioritized user-friendly interface, adaptation of difficulty, and motivational feedback. Eléa emphasizes the importance of customizable exergames to strike a balance between “what they need to see and what they want to see” to keep users engaged.

Following the theme of customizability, Eléa’s AR designs include three types of targeted exercises that promote balance enhancement, strength building, and improved coordination. In total, there are six different exercises/variations that participants can engage in.

The designers calibrated each exercise to recognize the individual’s limits. For example, when engaging in arm raises there is a camera that looks at the individual’s bones and joints to establish a baseline and maximum movement for that person. The arm raise exercise is accompanied by an animated bird at the center of the screen that reacts to the user’s movements. When the user raises their arms the bird’s wings flap, and when their arms stop the movement, the bird stops to rest. The bird only takes flight when the movement is correct, this provides motivation to have the right form and engages the user. There is also an avatar near the bottom corner of the screen that allows the participants to see how they look in real-time. The avatar gives the user visual feedback which they can use to adjust their positioning and movement accordingly.

Eléa’s study will take place in June 2024 at Galway, Ireland, and will evaluate two groups, the control group, engaging in regular physical exercises, and the intervention group, engaging with the exergames. The study will assess the physical and emotional outcomes of the participants, to see if exergames can improve physical ability, confidence, and engagement in exercise for people with Osteoporosis.

You can watch Eléa’s full talk on the Games Institute’s YouTube channel.