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UNB students win CHI PLAY award for Best Game in student game design

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Jan 5, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton

The University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) Dr. Scott Bateman and his creative computer science students have once again received worldwide attention for their innovative therapeutic games. Working together as a team, they won the 2021 CHI PLAY award for Best Game in the student game design competition with their entry, Percussion Hero.

UNB computer science students do exceedingly well in these game design competitions.

“Part of our success at CHI PLAY has come from collaborations with my UNB colleague Dr. Erik Scheme and the excellent work of our students,” said Bateman. “We’ve been going to the event for years and, including the 2021 win for Percussion Hero, we’ve won the best student game design competition three times, the most wins in that category’s history.”

Per the conference site, the student design competition received 19 submissions from 11 countries. It selected eight as finalists and a panel of industry and university experts selected the winner.

What is Percussion Hero and how does it work?

Percussion Hero is a game that doubles as a chest physical therapy tool for teenagers with cystic fibrosis (CF). It can be played on a tablet or PC with the sensor attached, making the game accessible using devices like phones or tablets. It was co-developed by Bateman and Scheme and led by UNB students Book Sadprasid, Ethan Eddy and Aaron Tabor.

Through play, the game helps patients and their caregivers administer exercises to help clear the lungs. Chest physical therapy is key to CF treatment. These exercises require the patient and caregiver to work together, tapping the chest and the back to help remove excess fluid in the lungs.

One of the big problems with CF chest therapy is that despite its importance, adherence is low. It’s a challenging routine to maintain, given it takes two people and often the caregiver involved is a family member. Where Percussion Hero comes in is both to help do the exercises correctly through the game’s feedback, but also to make the therapy fun to do.

The interactive component of Percussion Hero merges what a user can see through the visual interface (the game itself) and reality (the human body). The game helps the caregiver know whether they’re giving the patient the right “taps.”

This process also makes the process of therapy and rehabilitation more engaging in the aim of improving adherence to CF treatment, improving patient outcomes and preventing hospitalizations.

Bateman explained the inspiration for their therapy game, Percussion Hero, came while looking at chest therapy techniques and realizing it was similar to playing the drums in the video game Rock Band.

“The percussor for Rock Band was another rhythm game called Guitar Hero,” he said. “That’s where the name Percussion Hero came from and the play mechanics are similar.”

A key part of Percussion Hero came from prior research which developed the sensors used in the game. Bateman explained they took the earpiece from a stethoscope and attached a lapel microphone connected to a computer, turning the new device into an effective signal detector.

This way, the sensors read the pattern people make on a patient’s back while playing Percussion Hero and provide feedback as to whether they’re doing it right. The information is displayed through a computer, tablet or a mobile phone screen.

CHI PLAY 2022

CHI PLAY is an international and interdisciplinary conference for both researchers and professionals “across all areas of play, games and human-computer interaction (HCI).” The student game competition offers a venue where students can exhibit the games that they designed for their research projects.

The CHI PLAY conference began in 2014 and computer science students from the UNB Human-Computer Interaction Lab will once again enter CHI PLAY 2022. Learn more information about their 2022 submission, called “Focus Cat: Designing idle games to promote intermittent practice and on-going adherence of breathing exercise for ADHD” as well as previous CHI PLAY and student design events on the ACM SIGCHI YouTube channel.

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