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Nervous Kids Can Get Help from New Software

By imrdkl in News
Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 07:59:47 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

The MindGames Research group of the MIT Media Lab Europe in Dublin has the motto:

Where intelligent biofeedback, video gaming and sensory immersion combine to positively affect a participant's state of mind.
One of their projects, called Relax to Win, was featured in a recent New York Times article (via IHT).

Relax to Win was designed for children with anxiety disorders, so it's not the run-of-the-mill, head-splitting, blood-spraying deathmatch that one finds in most PC games. In Relax to Win, a biometric sensor is used to control the game outcome, so that the calmest player wins.


According to the game's description, the sensor is measuring galvanic skin response, much like a common lie detector. When the child is inappropriately affected by the game's visual stimuli, then their "player" (an animated dragon) slows down. Initially, the dragons are walking, and as more calmness is attained, they progress to running, and finally flying. Presumably, fire-breathing is also a no-no.

This research group claims that one of the central components of a therapy which treats childhood problems like anxiety and phobia is relaxation training. Biofeedback, they say, is an effective means of teaching it. They also have a clinical trial going on which studies the effects of their game on 10 children (aged 7-12). The results are due next month.

Treating troubled kids isn't the only possible use for this game. According to the biomedical engineer who heads the MindGames group, they've also received positive feedback from corporate leaders, who would like to play a few rounds before they go into their board meetings. In spite of the enthusiasm, biofeedback games haven't done exceptionally well in the marketplace. Players who aren't children seem to quickly lose interest in them.

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Poll
The best dragon is
o A calm dragon 6%
o An angry dragon 9%
o A reluctant dragon 9%
o A nervous dragon 7%
o A magic dragon 67%

Votes: 88
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o MindGames
o MIT Media Lab Europe
o Relax to Win
o article
o game's description
o galvanic skin response
o research group
o clinical trial
o Also by imrdkl


Display: Sort:
Nervous Kids Can Get Help from New Software | 24 comments (14 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hmm (5.00 / 4) (#2)
by carbon on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 08:20:21 PM EST

Many of the best games already require you to keep relaxed in order to play them well. Tetris Attack is a good example; you have to be able to visualize ahead quickly and accurately in order to win consistently, and keeping relaxed and focused while moving as quickly as possible is the best method.

Actually using a biometric feedback sensor almost seems like lazy design; they go and make player focus and calmness levels affect the game the brute-force way rather then through elegant design. Then again, this is more of an experiment and a therapy system than a game.

A really well designed game might be able to do much more unusual things with such a sensor... perhaps something where the player would have to switch on demand between relaxed and tense?


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
Could be better (none / 0) (#8)
by FlipFlop on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 10:14:37 PM EST

Actually using a biometric feedback sensor almost seems like lazy design; they go and make player focus and calmness levels affect the game the brute-force way rather then through elegant design.

The story description sounds like a brute-force solution, but is there a better way? I imagine they could develop a game where you keep one hand in the sensor and another on the keyboard.

The more relaxed you are, the faster your player recharges, moves, etc. I think you could make a very interesting game with biofeedback.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

Not lazy, focussed (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by NotZen on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 09:22:25 AM EST

Actually using a biometric feedback sensor almost seems like lazy design; they go and make player focus and calmness levels affect the game the brute-force way rather then through elegant design.

Except they only wanted to encourage one method of winning.  If it was based on planning and concentration, which is better when calm, then those people who are better at planning would do better than those who weren't, possible even when not calm.

Anyway, teaching people "how to be calm" might be a good start, and you could then demonstrate how useful it was in other situations.  No reason not to use a shortcut to a useful skill if you have it available.

[ Parent ]

Write In (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by egg troll on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 12:26:08 AM EST

Ball Z

He's a bondage fan, a gastronome, a sensualist
Unparalleled for sinister lasciviousness.

In the poll, where's HR Puff'n'Stuff? (none / 0) (#14)
by wiredog on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 07:50:21 AM EST

The Texas Cowboy Dragon?

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

I wouldn't know (none / 0) (#20)
by imrdkl on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 04:40:49 PM EST

Ask johnny, perhaps.

[ Parent ]
seems confusing (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by clark9000 on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 09:21:37 AM EST

Initially, the dragons are walking, and as more calmness is attained, they progress to running, and finally flying.

It sounds like as I'm playing, as I get more relaxed, my on-screen character, who represents me displays more and more agitated behavior: moving faster, running, etc. I guess the experiment worked, but on the face of it, I would find this very confusing. I would expect my character to relax if I relaxed.

Otherwise, the idea seems like a great one: I do think relaxation/stress responses can be trained one way or the other, and video games seem like it a good way to do it.
_____
Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.

-- E. Dickinson
maybe that's the point (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by adequate nathan on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 09:53:26 AM EST

Maybe kids are supposed to learn how to relax even as the dragon is becoming more active. This makes sense if these kids tend to find stimulating stimuli to be excessively stimulating.

IANAPsychologist, just my 2 c.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

so now (none / 0) (#19)
by dr k on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 04:00:21 PM EST

kids will be bored when they're excited, and excited when they're bored. I'm not sure how that solves any problems.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

If my dragon became more relaxed... (none / 0) (#23)
by D Jade on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 12:19:39 AM EST

... He would sit down next to a big ole tree and smoke some herb or drink sum beer!!!



You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
Poll option: Sexy Dragon [nt] (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by danni on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 02:45:33 PM EST



Yiah!! (none / 0) (#22)
by D Jade on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 12:17:38 AM EST

I can't believe they didn't have that in the selection.

I chose angry dragon, coz there were no sexy dragons and I figure that if there were no sexy dragons then I would be angry or sad :(

Hey! There were no sad dragons either!



You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#24)
by imrdkl on Fri Feb 07, 2003 at 08:43:36 AM EST

My next dragon poll will request input in a diary first.

[ Parent ]
missing poll option (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by majcher on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 08:08:21 PM EST

Double Dragon, duh.
--
http://www.majcher.com/
Wrestling pigs since 1988!
Nervous Kids Can Get Help from New Software | 24 comments (14 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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