Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

Thought you all might find this illuminating. Three separate ideas that all have a common thread, and illustrate the relevance of videogames beyond entertainment.

First, Robert Wood Johnson. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropic organization devoted to public health. Its mission is to improve the quality of health and health care for all Americans, and–through its Pioneer Portfolio–has been a driving force of the Games For Health conference, as well as its regular sponsor. Why? According to Paul Tarini, Senior Programs Officer at RWJF,

We see games as both a really  interesting therapeutic intervention, but also more and more… help us learn things about people’s health and how to improve their health than we ever could before.”

Check out the full interview here.

On to the U.S. Military and the Dismounted Soldier Training System. In development: a fully-immersive, virtual training environment for U.S. army soldiers, featuring immediate performance feedback, injury simulation, 360 view and surround sound. The $57 million project is being built on the CryENGINE® 3 game engine released by German  developer Crytek in 2009 (Electronic Arts’ Crysis 2 (March 2011) was the first videogame developed with CryENGINE 3). Said Harry Martin, President and CEO of Intelligent Decisions (the company behind the development of this training system),

The goal of Dismounted Soldier is to provide our deploying soldiers with the best available training to ensure that they maintain the military advantage.”

And it’s based entirely on an engine used to build cutting-edge videogames. Here’s the full press release.

You can check out the announcement on the Off Duty Gamers website here.

And you can read more about CryENGINE 3 here.

Finally, virtual currency. Virtual currency’s been around for years: many MMORPGs (World of Warcraft being the primary example) use it to allow players to make in-game purchases, and Second Life has it’s own currency–the Linden dollar–that players use when buying or selling virtual goods. However, the Linden also has an exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, which fluctuates based on supply and demand. With the rise of social networking, though, the market for virtual goods has exploded, and the virtual economy has gone with it: this year, in the U.S. alone, its estimated value is $2.2 billion (yes, billion). Worldwide, that number is a staggering $12.5 billion. Remember, these are virtual goods. Outside of their presence in videogames, they don’t exist. At all. And yet they’re worth billions. The developers of Empire Avenue want to use the game’s economy to drive the real-world economy. Check it out here.

And you can learn more about Empire Avenue here.

Well, G4H ’11 is over, and it was fantastic. In the two years since I last attended, the games for health arena has exploded. People are really pushing the boundaries of videogames and game tech, and are developing some innovative and mind-blowing ways of dealing with a wide range of issues around mental and physical health, training, rehab and education—effectively, efficiently and at a much lower cost than traditional means.

Consider healthcare worker training: Traditional methods involve real-world simulations (and trainers to run them), mannequins and/or live actors playing the parts of sick patients or accident victims. This type of training is expensive, time-intensive, and limited in reach—it can only accommodate a handful of trainees each day, at most. However, build the whole scenario into a VR simulation, deploy it either locally or across the Internet, and you have a platform to reach a virtually unlimited number of participants. Start-up and initial development represent the bulk of the expense (though still less than purchasing the equipment and running a single real-world training); once built, maintenance costs are minimal. And trainees can run the simulation on their own, whenever is convenient for them, freeing up personnel (no need for actors or trainers) and putting them back on the floor where they’re most needed. From a practical standpoint, VR also allows you to build simulations for a wide range of situations—from routine patient assessment to triaging victims after a catastrophic event—tornado or hurricane strike, earthquake, explosion or attack, or, for those training as battlefield medics, military engagement. Anything that can be imagined can be built, deployed and run—over and over—safely, efficiently and effectively.

Similarly, videogame technology allows you to develop and deploy on-the-job training simulations for a variety of fields—particularly useful for hazardous occupations, where mistakes can be costly and even life-threatening. VR sims allow people to safely make mistakes (and even experiment with “what if” questions), review the results, explore what went wrong and how to correct it, and re-run the scenario if necessary—all for a fraction of the cost and time needed to run a real-world training.

The relatively low cost of these VR simulations also means that critical training can reach under-served areas all over the globe—areas that can’t afford more expensive, traditional training methods. Are the VR sims as effective as real-world tools? No one’s really sure. But they’re clearly better than doing nothing. Check out this article for a case in point.

For a taste of how games are being used to train healthcare professionals, check out SimQuest and Virtual Heroes.

Safe sex, clinical depression, PTSD, knee replacement rehab, Parkinson’s, acquired brain injury, nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, nightmares, cancer, dancing, HIV, emergency response. What do these have in common? They’re all subjects of videogames, and are all featured topics at the seventh annual Games For Health conference in Boston next week.

The Games For Health conference is one of the largest gatherings of researchers, medical professionals and game developers interested in learning about and shaping the impact that videogames have on health and health care. For three days (5/16-5/19), several hundred people will hear how videogames and game technology are being used across a variety of disciplines—neuroscience, healthcare, defense, game development, pediatric medicine, and behavioral health among them. There are games for things like weight loss, smoking cessation, disease management, and pandemic preparedness, and game technology has been adapted to help soldiers recover from traumatic stress, train paramedics in emergency response, and speed up post-injury rehabilitation.

For more information about Games For Health, follow this link:

About Games For Health

And be sure to preview the conference schedule here:

G4H ’11 schedule

Check back here throughout the week, as I’ll be posting updates from the conference.