Gamified / Interactive Balance Board
Rehabilitation isn’t fun and no one will do it when it’s not needed. But there are times that you’re just forced to. In one of these ocasions it can happen you have to rehabilitate using a balance board. During my time at Interactive Institute we tried to come up with a way to make rehabilitation using the balance board more fun, engaging and find a way of showing the progress you make during the exercises.
To find the answer of these questions we ordered a couple of balance boards and started to exercises ourself. We confirmed that it was not really fun to do. To see of this was really the case we talked with people who used a balance board to train. I was surprised how many people were using them and the variety of age groups.
With this new knowledge we started brainstorming and one of the first things that came to our minds was; what if we made a game controller out of this board? Using sensors inside we could connect it for example to a computer or console and make games for it. The gameplay of the games would be based on real exercises. It could be a great way of showing progress as you could try to improve your highscore.
We build one prototype with lots of duct tape and one high fidelity prototype with all electronics nicely worked away. The final version looked like a normal balance board. Expect when you turned it on, it illuminated the ground around it with strategically placed LEDs. These LEDs we used to communicate the gestures of the games.
The final prototype contained a Teency microcontroller, a Bluetooth communication chip, a motion sensor so we could see the boards global position and orientation, a battery and a lot of LEDs. All these part were nicely worked away inside the balance board.
After the completion I started working on two different game concepts. Both were based on actual exercises used by patients.
The first game was called Planet where you as player are a small planet in space and you have to protect yourself from incoming asteroids. You could destroy these incoming projectiles by balancing as steady as you can which charged up a forcefield. You could release this force field by tapping a egde of the board on the ground. This released the forcefield and destroyed all objects around you. But you had to get back up as quickly as you could to recharge your field again for the next incoming wave. The goal was to stay alive as long as you could with every wave getting harder and harder containing different types of asteroids you only could destroy by tapping the ground on the “right” side.
The second game was also all about survival. You controlled a small planet by balancing forward, backwards, left or right like the arrow keys on a keyboard. Your goal was get as big as you could by “eating” smaller planets but avoiding the bigger ones.
Both these games used an abstract style to make the game accessible for different target groups as the style was not connected to the real world. This is something I discovered during my previous project for the dutch army where we also encountered a variety of age groups and it worked rather well.
Though gameplay wise both games were very hard as I didn’t had the time to playtest them properly and it would definitely take weeks or months to make them perfect. But it was not about making a game but creating a “proof of concept” to achieve our goal; Making rehabilitation more fun and engaging.
Did we achieve this goal? I think we did though it needs much more playtesting to make the games really good. I can make a basic game but I found out that it I’m not really a gamedesigner and I don’t want to be.
Julien Ranzijn – Concept, Game Design & Programming
Gunner Oledal – Hardware & Programming
Made during my time at Interactive Institute in Göteborg, Sweden