3 November 2016

Mobile games for a healthy urban life

The city of Eindhoven will be the Dutch living lab for the development of health-related digital applications. Researchers of, among other institutions, Utrecht University will work with the municipality of Eindhoven to deploy digital applications to make people aware of the role public space can play for the improvement of their health.

Youngsters convening in a green environment by playing an augmented-reality game - in this case Pokémon GO.

Healthy urban life

More and more people live, commute and work in the city. But how do we keep cities good to live in and healthy? These are challenges many big cities are dealing with. The success of Niantic's Pokémon GO shows the many possibilities mobile games offer to reach a big audience and 'play' with the way you use a city.

Together with an European consortium, Healthy Urban Living researcher Monique Simons of Utrecht University received 350,000 euros from the Erasmus+ programme for the big international research consortium PREHealth. They do research into how digital applications -apps and mobile games- can be deployed to encourage people in the city to use the public space more often for physical exercise. Aside from the Netherlands, the consortium also consists of Germany, Greece and Hungary.

The deployment of mobile games for a healthy urban life is one of the research lines of the interdisciplinary research group Healthy Urban Living (HUL) of Utrecht University, which includes Simons.

Augmented-reality games

Digital applications are about augmented-reality games -such as the well-known game Pokémon GO-, mobile games -such as Foursquare and Geocaching- and playful interactions -such as Piano Stairs- in the city. Can mobile games and apps be deployed to encourage civilians to document and share their favourite places in the city? How can augmented-reality games be deployed to make positive health effects more tangible? In order to answer these questions, the European partners will develop applications together with universities of applied sciences, universities and end users.

Eindhoven: a smart and healthy city

The Dutch part of the project was put in motion in Eindhoven as part of the Brabant Health Deal that was recently signed by big municipalities in the province of North Brabant, the provincial government, Area Health Authorities and knowledge institutions, including Utrecht University. The ambition of the Health Deal is to ensure that people in the future can live healthy lives in a healthy, economically vital environment. As part of that, it is important to take both health and well-being as sustainable starting points for environment-economical assessments and urban development.

One of this Health Deal's themes is ‘Interactive technology, ‘serious games’ and ‘gamification’ in the service of a healthy, social and caring society’. The European project that will start in December will be one of the showcase projects within this theme of the Brabant Health Deal.

Sustainability Utrecht University

By focusing its expertise on Sustainability, Utrecht University develops integral solutions for sustainability problems and contributes to a better future for generations to come. This theme connects the excellent Utrecht-based sustainability research from Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social and Behavioural Sciences. The focus is on water, energy and a healthy living environment. Sustainability is one of Utrecht University's four strategic research themes.

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