NHL and Kyushu Universities Working on Games for the Elderly using Kinect

Most gamers are relatively young, but I’m quite sure that many already asked themselves the question: “Will I still be a gamer fifty years from now?”

Japan is a nation of gamers and looks like the elderly aren’t an exception. Arcade game centers (that are still alive and healthy in the country, despite the popularity of consoles) are often visited by a large percentage of senior customers and even nursing homes often include a game room for the enjoyment of the patrons.

Those game rooms normally house games that involve an healthy amount of movement, like Namco Bandai’s Taiko Drum Master and Hebi Hebi, an arcade game developed by Doctor Shin-ichiro Takasugi, a rehabilitation expert of the Kyushu University Hospital and the man with the whitest lab coat I ever seen in my life (look at the video below). The game is a variant of the classic whack-a-mole to be performed by stomping on the head of snakes.

Not only the game proves scientifically effective in helping the Elderly (and not only them) in the often difficult task of staying healthy, but it also helps them stay happy. Having fun in an important part of taking care of one’s health. Mens Sana in Corpore Sano (A sound mind in a healthy body). The Romans were wise people.

Dr. Takasugi has teamed-up with Dr. Boudewijn Dijkstra of the NHL University (in the Netherlands) and the indie developers Grendel Games (that has already released Virtual Enodosuite, a training tool for assisting staff in endoscopicsurgery) and Gameship to create the ultimate game for Senior Gamers that need to keep healthy and have fun at the same time.

The game is named HASeGa (which I guess is a development name) and uses Kinect in order to simulate ballroom dancing, that’s probably more appealing to senior gamers than what is featured in more commercially-oriented games like Dance Central and definitely much more fun than the usual rehabilitation techniques.

If you are curious, you can check a presentation of the research behind it by Dr. Dijkstra himself. The game should be ready early next year.

NHK World (the English language version of the Japanese national TV channel) aired a report on the research today. You can watch it embedded below and see Dr. Takasugi nailing one of the most common problems seen in many Kinect games like a seasoned developer. And they say that researchers don’t know gaming…

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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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