Virtual reality games for promoting exercise for people living with dementia

Older woman playing a virtual reality game
Exercise has been shown to have significant physical, cognitive, and emotional benefits for older adults, however, changing abilities can make it difficult for people living with dementia to engage in exercise. Together with kinesiologists and people with early-stage dementia, we have co-created head-mounted virtual reality exercise games to encourage engagement in exercise. Pilot trials with six people with dementia showed great promise; people were doing targeted exercise motions and enjoyed playing games in virtual environments.

Our work with VR exergames currently focuses on several areas:

Virtual reality game design for eliciting outcomes-based exercises for people living with dementia

In collaboration with a local VR company, exercise therapists, and people living with dementia, we are currently co-creating a new set of VR exergames with improved and expanded game features as aesthetics, adaptability, and mechanics. The game design process employs user-centred and iterative game design methods to support optimal exploitation and incorporation of the stakeholders’ feedback.

The games focus on eliciting movements that have been shown to have maximum benefits for range of motion while complementing people’s current and changing capabilities. The new suite of games will be evaluated in a larger evaluative study in late 2019. 

Keywords: virtual reality, exergames, physical activity, game design, user-centred design, dementia.

Establishing efficacy measures in VR exergames for physical activity promotion in older adults living with dementia

We are developing novel efficacy metrics that reflect physical, cognitive and social effects of VR exergames for older adults living with dementia. Different metrics can be used to track players' performance and provide valuable feedback to exercise therapists. Initially, we will use data from gameplay to quantify objective features (e.g., completed tasks, reaction times) as well as motion data collected from the headset and controllers (e.g., range of motion) to explore representation of players' quality of movement and exercise intensity. The long-term goal of this project is to leverage machine learning to establish specific game metrics that can be used to quantify the impact of VR Exergames on desired levels of physical activity, as well as other aspects, such as balance and mood.

Keywords: game metrics, motion analysis, gameplay, game user research, range of motion, effectiveness

Kinematic adaptation through closed-loop systems to personalise exergaming interventions

Balancing exercise attractiveness and effectiveness in exergaming scenarios remains as an unsolved problem. This project focuses on developing a collaborative approach that considers therapists' motor assessments and therapeutic goals with closed-loop system intelligence to improve Exergaming effectiveness. The kinematically adaptive framework for exergames uses off-the-shelf motion trackers to collect kinematic data during gameplay and creates real-time adaptations based on specific movement patterns. The framework consists in three modules: i) data collection, ii) data analysis, and iii) data translation working together in a closed-loop system capable of adapting the motor behavior of players to desirable states via providing timely feedback and modulations of exergame parameters during training sessions. 

Keywords: exergame, kinematic, virtual reality, effectiveness, closed-loop systems, adaptation