Kinect-Based Exercising Game for Elderly People

This video game has combined exercising with great fun, motivating the elderly people to exercise effectively at their homes. To protect privacy, users are cut out from their home environment and set into a virtual playground on the screen. Their game scores are shared online so that offline friends could also play together online.


Background

Exercising is essential for elderly people to maintain their health in a good condition. However, elderly people usually have a tendency to stay at home due to their physical limitations or limited weather conditions in which they are willing to go outside for exercise. In addition, elderly people are easily injured with heavy exercise equipment, which also makes them reluctant to exercise. In this study, we followed the process of “user-centered design” in developing an indoor exercising video game using the Kinect system to overcome aforementioned problems.

Oct. 2012 - May 2013


Team

2 Industrial Engineering Students, 1 Professor


Responsibilities

  • Preliminary idea generation
  • User requirements analysis
  • Preliminary function design
  • Low-fidelity prototype (PPT) design
  • High-fidelity prototype (C#) developing and testing
  • Paper writing and presenting in HCII 2014


Process

USER REQUIREMENTS GATHERING AND ANALYSIS

To get a list of user requirements for the indoor exercising game, we conducted an interview with 10 senior citizens (6F/4M, aging from 65 to 80) in Mar. 2013 in Beijing, China. Questions were asked to get information about their exercising frequency, duration, kind, and hobbies. Their attitudes towards air pollution, indoor exercising behavior, and relationship with children or same-aged citizens were also covered. It was found out that they always exercise before breakfast or after lunch, and they often do some light exercising (e.g. Tai-Chi) due to their physical limitations or due to their fears of injuries. The exercising lasts half to one hour each time, twice a week, and is influenced greatly by air conditions. For indoor exercising, they were concerned about the effectiveness, and also showed their missing of good friends.

A user requirement list was then generated to show that the indoor-exercising program should:

  • Have adequate volume of exercising to be effective, but a limited game time in each round
  • Be easy to understand and to start with
  • Have voice control for low-vision users
  • Provide different scenes and tasks to exercise on different body parts
  • Encourage people to have a healthy schedule
  • Have social connectivities


PROTOTYPE DEVELOPMENT

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Screenshot. She is challenged to hit twice of bubbles falling from the sky. She is also challenged to distinguish positive points from negative "bombs".

System sketch. Users stand 4 to 5 meters in front of the screen. The screen and Kinect are connected to the PC. In future, PC could be substituted by Xbox and the screen could be replaced by TV.

Game design. The first time when a bubble falls down from the sky, it is covered with a question mark. After first hit, it turns to a score that is randomly positive or negative. Moreover, bonus points are given to encourage players using their lower parts.

Kinect was selected as part of the game apparatus due to its availabilities in detecting users and their body skeletons. It was used as a distant sensor to obtain depth data as well as a camera to get graphics. Users' privacy is protected when they are cut out of from their home environment using the depth and graphic data. They are instead set onto a virtual playground in the screen and surrounded by the background music.

In the game, bubbles are falling down from the sky (top of the screen), and players are challenged to hit them to gain scores. However, to increase the game difficulty and to train players' reactions, they are asked to hit each bubble twice to get the score. That is, one bubble is falling from the sky with a randomized score, being covered by a question mark. After it is hit for the first time, the bubble score is shown and its color is changed: for a negative score, the bubble turns into black color, and players now know that they should avoid it! Otherwise, the bubble turns into a colorful bubble with a positive score (100, 50, 20, 10, or 5). Bonus points are given to players, who can kick the bubbles with lower parts and voice commands are supported. Social score board is provided after the game and online friends could play together.


PROTOTYPE EVALUATION

6 senior citizens (5F/1M, aging from 55 to 80) were invited to participate in the evaluation in Jun. 2013 in Beijing, China. They were introduced with the game setup and carried out a one-minute game trial. A follow-up interview was conducted to gather their opinions to the game in regarding of the 5E (effectiveness, efficiency, engaging, easy to learn, error tolerance).

As a result, the game was highly favored by the users, and was rated to:

  • expose less danger to users
  • have more entertainment and thus motivation
  • have social connectivity with old friends and peer pressure on exercising


Also from the user evaluation process, directions for potential future development were generated, e.g. a more deliberate design with different difficulty levels, a long-term observation of game motivation, and a scientific verification of the game effectiveness.


Learnings & achievements

  • How to code Kinect-based programs using C#
  • More experience in the entire development circle of a UCD project
  • 1 EI-indexed conference paper published in the HCII2014


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© Chen Liao, Last update on May 19th, 2017