Games with a purpose are invaluable tools to encourage the user participation in health monitoring applications. The usage of games for monitoring the physical and cognitive status of older persons is a core concept of the FrailSafe project. The aim is to create attractive games which can engage the user to an intriguing task employing physical or cognitive action, so that, indirectly, physical and cognitive parameters can be monitored. Even further, such games are not limited to mere monitoring, but can be exploited as a means for the older person to perform physical or mental exercises, towards the goal of rehabilitation.
Within this context, a virtual supermarket game has already been in use in the project and will be further developed until its end. The Virtual Supermarket (VSM) is a game simulating the experience of a person shopping in a supermarket, in a 3D environment (see figure). At the beginning of the game, a list of items is presented and the task of the user is to navigate through the supermarket, select the listed items from the shelves, in the correct quantities, and pay the correct amount at the cashier. The performance of users in the game has been shown to be related to indications of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is a condition that often predates Alzheimer’s disease. In this respect, it is a valuable tool for FrailSafe, in order to detect deterioration in the cognitive function of the users, which is often an indication and result of frailty.
The first version of the game was implemented for the purposes of the EN-NOISIS European project, by a cooperation of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s disease and the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Information Technologies Institute (the latter currently being a FrailSafe partner). In an article published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, it has been indicated that the performance of the users in the VSM application was highly correlated to MCI indices, suggesting that the application can be used as a tool for diagnostic purposes.
This cognition-related diagnostic capability of the virtual supermarket game will be used for the purpose of the FrailSafe project, i.e. the automatic diagnosis of frailty. However, the ultimate purpose is to not restrict the game to cognition-related features. Similar to all FrailSafe games, attempts have already started in order to embed FrailSafe devices and sensors, such as the inertial movement sensors (IMUs) of the vest or the dynamometer, as input devices with which the user will be able to control various aspects of the game. The usage of these devices will enrich the virtual supermarket application with diagnosis and rehabilitation features with respect to physical parameters, apart from the existing cognitive ones.