Queen's University

Cerebral palsy is no barrier to high-octane exergaming

 
2013-05-08

Queen’s University and Bloorview Research Institute researchers have developed a fast-paced exercise video game that allows children with cerebral palsy to engage in physical exercise in their homes and play with other kids over a network.

“Unlike most games designed for people with physical disabilities, Liberi is a fast-paced action game that shows disabilities don't have to be a barrier to high-octane fun,” says professor Nick Graham (School of Computing). “The games are designed around the kids' abilities, but they retain the feel of a traditional action game"

The game was unveiled last week at the ACM CHI 2013 (Computer-Human Interaction) conference in Paris. Liberi is the result of collaboration between Dr. Graham and Darcy Fehlings, Physician Director of the CP Program at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

Players sit in a custom-designed recumbent exercise bike and pedal to move an avatar around in a virtual world.

“Kids find Liberi exciting because it allows them to play from home, but together with other kids. This is practical for their families, since they don't have to travel to a special facility to do exercise, and fun for the kids, since they can get together with their friends in the virtual gaming world,” says Dr. Graham.

During a home trial with children in Toronto, groups of children played together daily over an eight-week period. The kids' interest held up strongly over the two months. One parent said: “He enjoyed it. He was sweating when he came off of there.”

“The game is fun, helps kids connect socially and improves their physical fitness,” says Dr. Fehlings, co-principal investigator with Dr. Graham. “This exciting collaboration between Bloorview Research Institute’s CP Research Lab and Queen’s University has brought together two different areas of expertise to create an innovative new treatment.”

The project is the result of a novel initiative of the GRAND and NeuroDevNet Networks of Centres of Excellence. Also working on the project are Hamilton Hernandez (PhD Computing’15) who presented Liberi to delegates at the Paris conference, and lead programmer Zi Ye.

Watch a video demonstration of Liberi

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