2 November 2016

UU presentations at the 6th annual "Games For Health"-conference

Roos Dekker presenting her findings at the Games for Health conference
Roos Dekker presenting her research poster at the 6th annual Games for Health conference

The annual Games for Health Europe conference is the leading conference in the field of applied health games in Europe. The 6th annual conference was held on the 31st of October and the 1st of November in Utrecht. By bringing together more than 400 people with a wide variety of professions, such as game developers, policy makers, researchers, clinicians and doctors, this conference created a unique opportunity to share ideas and establish new collaborations to advance game technology and improve health care. Among those presenting were Roos Dekker (Research Assistant at the department of Clinical Psychology), Wouter Boendermaker (Researcher at the department of Developmental Psychology) and Zerrin Yumak en Yun Ling (Information and Computing Sciences - Virtual Worlds) from Utrecht University.


Roos Dekker presented a research poster about automated techniques to assess and tackle depressive symptoms. This pilot study (conducted in collaboration with Claudi Bockting, Alishia Williams and Ronald Poppe from Utrecht University) built on existing work demonstrating it is possible to automatically detect depression from facial gestures. They extended this work by developing an automated intervention strategy based on the facial feedback hypothesis; manipulation of facial muscles alone can confer affective benefits. It was found that depressive symptoms significantly predicted the facial expression of contempt, and that five imitations of a smile were sufficient to increase the positive mood. They envision that this methodology can be further developed in a gamified self-empowering tool in the form of a smartphone app: a personal, virtual life-style coach that can detect the onset of depression and offers an automatized, personalized intervention to decrease depression symptoms. 

This project is supported by Game Research Seed Money


Wouter Boendermaker presenting his game Fling and it's findings at the Games for Health conference
Wouter Boendermaker presenting his game Fling and it's findings at the Games for Health conference

Training behavioral control

Wouter Boendermaker presented a serious game called ‘Fling’ that aims to train behavioral control in adolescents. In collaboration with ShoSho, he aimed to develop a game that would be both entertaining and teach adolescents how to inhibit behavioral responses. This is of great importance, as many adolescents show problems inhibiting behavior (such as alcohol use), and explicit messages to reduce this behavior often fail to work (e.g. ‘Do not drink’). His research adapted an existing cognitive training paradigm into a serious game, which offers adolescents an opportunity to practice withholding immediate responses in favor of long-term goals. During the presentation, Wouter demonstrated the game and provided the first results of his RCT (data collection is still ongoing), in which he compared ‘Fling’ with a non-game training. Initial results are promising, showing that game training is rated much higher compared to the non-game training. He highlights that it is of importance to keep motivation high throughout the game.


Yun Lin and Zerrin Yumak's demo in action

Exercise game for elderly patients after hip replacement surgery

Yun Ling and Zerrin Yumak presented a demo of exercise games for elderly patients after hip replacement surgery. The project is supported by COMMIT project "Virtual worlds for well-being" (http://www.commit-nl.nl/). It is a collaboration work between CGI Nederland, 8DGames, Aafje and Utrecht University. The exercise games translated rehabilitation exercises such as stepping, lunges and squats into playing fun exercise games in different immersive virtual environments. The game works by analyzing the elderly patient’s movements using a depth camera Kinect 2 and providing data, e.g., knee angle and hip angle to the physiotherapists to keep track of patients’ recovery progress. Currently, Utrecht University is conducting a user study among elderly patients and the physiotherapists to test the usability and user acceptance of the game. If both the therapists and the patients found the exercises games are usable and would like to use it in the future, the effectiveness of the exercise games would then be tested in another experiment. Our final goal is that the exercise games can help the patients to do rehabilitation more effectively to relieve the burden of health care. Furthermore, the patients can use the exercise games to do rehabilitation to maintain healthy at home or nursery houses.