Blue Marble Games Aid People With Traumatic Brain Injuries

By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2013-07-04 Print this article Print

Blue Marble Gaming has developed a set of "neuro games" to help people with various conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) with their rehabilitation. The company employs trained in-house clinical researchers, physical therapists and occupational therapists to help develop the games. Its games are funded by the government to benefit neurological health and are based on Microsoft Kinect technology, which uses the human body as a controller. They're intended for use by U.S. Army soldiers recovering from brain trauma sustained in combat as well as seniors, who are able to maintain their balance and avoid falling. "Falls are a huge public health problem, and we're working on addressing that through our game," Blue Marble CEO Sheryl Flynn, a physician therapist with a Ph.D. in motor learning and control, told eWEEK. Blue Marble is slated to receive funding from the National Institutes of Aging to expand its Zoezi Park prototype game. The games maintain clinical data that is sent to a clinician or therapist. "Our games are both assessments and interventions—the actual therapy," Flynn said. At the recent E3 video game conference, attendees noted that the games appear to be regular video games rather than "rehab games," Flynn noted. "That's part of our mission: We want our games to look and feel like regular video games so the whole family would play." Here we take a look at how the Blue Marble games help the elderly or those with traumatic injuries.

  • Blue Marble Games Aid People With Traumatic Brain Injuries

    by Brian Horowitz
    1 - Blue Marble Games Aid People With Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Interactive Exercise for the Elderly

    A prototype game for the elderly, Zoezi Park uses Microsoft's Kinect to provide an interactive exercise program consisting of an obstacle course with stations along the way. "Zoezi" is a Swahili word for exercise. Performing the exercises allows the elderly to reduce falls by 35 percent, according to Flynn, who sees the game becoming part of an insurance plan and people receiving it for a 65th birthday present. "They'd have to play the game for the rest of their lives," she said. "That's how you stay balanced."
    2 - Interactive Exercise for the Elderly
  • Posture Exercises in a 3D Park

    By walking through different stations in the 3D environment, Zoezi Park players can pick up different tips on posture and other health-related topics. "One of the things that makes our game different from a regular off-the-shelf Kinect game is that we have embedded in our game a few safety checks," Flynn said. "We're trying to avoid putting people in an unsafe situation, but at the same time to work on their balance so they won't fall."
    3 - Posture Exercises in a 3D Park
  • A Scavenger Hunt for Survival

    Treasure of Bell Island is an adventure game named after the initials of "traumatic brain injury" (TBI), also called intracranial injury, in which a bump or jolt—like from a football game or motor vehicle accident—can cause damage to the brain. Players challenge their cognitive functions as a treasure-hunting company member stranded on an island.
    4 - A Scavenger Hunt for Survival
  • Testing Motor Response on Bell Island

    Treasure of Bell Island tests motor response times, and clinicians or therapists can observe how easily patients are distracted by objects such as butterflies. The game also aids soldiers with amputations and post-concussive brain injuries.
    5 - Testing Motor Response on Bell Island
  • Challenging Cognitive Abilities

    Treasure of Bell Island allows people with traumatic brain injuries to practice daily living by making sure they and other characters in the game get enough food and rest along the way to rescue Professor Swan. "It's about building shelters, getting enough rest and taking care of yourself," Flynn said.
    6 - Challenging Cognitive Abilities
  • Practicing Balance on the Island

    Games such as Treasure Bell Island allow clinicians to track whether patients are benefiting from the game playing, Flynn said. As users practice their balance in the game, doctors can monitor the results to see if their balance is sufficient and if they're doing enough repetitions.
    7 - Practicing Balance on the Island
  • Reset Strengthens Coordination

    Reset is a game that works to restore cognitive skills following mild traumatic brain injury. It consists of 13 to 15 assessments a clinician would carry out for people with brain injuries and allows participants to strengthen their visual perception, memory and coordination.
    8 - Reset Strengthens Coordination
  • Algorithms and Executive Function

    On a touch-screen device, "taps are tracked and fed through a series of algorithms that provide clinicians with a window into how a person's memory and executive function are working," Flynn said.
    9 - Algorithms and Executive Function
  • Reset Helps Clinicians Evaluate Memory

    In Reset, gamers play the manager of an airplane hangar and must organize the parts of the airplane. Among 32 levels, "there's a lot of thinking and planning that goes on to successfully complete the airplane," Flynn said, noting that the attention to detail is a good test of executive function.
    10 - Reset Helps Clinicians Evaluate Memory
  • Reset Uses the Samsung SUR40 Tabletop PC

    Reset is playable on a Mac, PC or a 40-inch Samsung tabletop computer, which incorporates Microsoft PixelSense technology. PixelSense can recognize fingers, hands and objects touching the screen using integrated sensors in the screen.
    11 - Reset Uses the Samsung SUR40 Tabletop PC
  • Deep Ocean Provides Clinicians With Gaming Data

    Deep Ocean provides a Web portal for clinicians to collect data on how a player performs in Blue Marble's games. The company has organized the data according to various cognitive and physical skills, and clinicians can export the data to an electronic health record (EHR).
    12 - Deep Ocean Provides Clinicians With Gaming Data

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