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Univ Of Utah Game Seeks To Build Strength In Youth Cancer Patients

A recently unveiled, motion-controlled game project from researchers at the University of Utah aims to help promote both the physical and mental strength of children working through difficult cancer treatments.
A recently unveiled, motion-controlled game project from researchers at the University of Utah aims to help promote both the physical and mental strength of children working through difficult cancer treatments. Medicinal chemistry professor Grzegorz Bulaj says he was inspired to create PE Interative, as the project is called, when he saw patients using a medical device called an incentive spirometer to blow a ball as high as possible, encouraging lung strength and warding off pneumonia. The XNA-developed PE Interactive similarly asks players to move a PlayStation Move controller to build their endurance, physical strength, heart rate and oxygen intake rates, with challenges that require increased activity as the game progresses. But the game also makes extensive use of metaphor to encourage players to feel empowered in their fight against the disease. Building a wall to protect island villagers from a tsunami in the game represents building up an immune system against disease, for example, and the game's superhero protagonist gets less exhausted as the fight against his arch-nemesis continues. "Patients who are more empowered are presumably more likely to be willing to fight their disease and maintain their treatment for a longer period of time," hematologist-oncologist Carol Bruggers said in a statement. The game, built as a collaboration between Utah's engineering, pediatrics and medicinal health departments, has gone from idea to implementation in less than a year. Researchers are now developing a strategy to get the game to as many hospitals and caregivers as possible.

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