Training elderly patients in a playful way – the gamification of eHealth tools

Virtualware is a Spanish pioneer SME dedicated to developing solutions using Virtual Reality technology and consortium partner in the InLife project, which works on all-around, personalised, multi-faceted existing ICT solutions and services addressing diverse daily activities (eating, physical activity, commuting, mental stimulation, communication, social interaction, etc.) to users with cognitive impairment living in their own home or in sheltered homes, as well as to their formal and informal carers.

We talked to Jon Arambarri, R&D Manager at Virtualware, about their participation in the InLife project, what they expected, what they learned and what will be the outcome of the project for their company.

What is your role in the InLife project and what was your motivation to participate?

Jon: We are a software company specialised in games and we try to apply our knowledge in gamification on eHealth solutions. In that we are focusing on games that can help in the rehabilitation of both the physical and cognitive side. We already have a product that is quite successful in physical rehabilitation, now we would like to complement it with helping in the cognitive part of rehabilitation, or more correctly the prevention of deterioration and training to avoid further deterioration. Our participation in the InLife project allows us just that.

Does your participation in the InLife project fulfil your expectations in this respect?

Jon: Yes, it does. With the creation of eHealth solutions, you could say that we are creating a new need in the user. For this reason, it is very important to have the feedback of the user, of the hospitalised persons and the hospital staff. An important aspect is of course also to work with well recognised hospitals across Europe and get their recognition that his kind of technology, these specifically developed games are appropriate for the purpose of rehabilitation and prevention of cognitive deterioration.

What exactly did you develop for the InLife project?

Jon: We developed a game for cognitive training of elderly people. This game reflects on the tablet a familiar environment like the home of the people. A task in the game is then to go to the kitchen for example and to recognise the objects and their meaning. For example, they need to recognise the object as a spoon and need to associate the name of the object with the object. The game intends to keep the person active in a joyful, gamified way. The data gathered by the game then shows the evolution of the patient and allows to assess whether the person’s capabilities are maintained or declining.

What would be the ideal outcome for you?

Jon: As a company, we are of course looking at developing a product that we can bring to market. Our game for physical rehabilitation is already on the market. As an ICT product, it needs of course continuous updates, but it is on the market and ready. An ideal outcome of the InLife project for us would be the prototype of a game for cognitive training, validated by the experts, confirmed by the feedback from the users, close to be ready to be put on the market.

What has been your experience so far? What practical issues do you encounter?

Jon: Since the user testing is still ongoing, we do not have an analysis of user feedback yet. But in general, as a team of ICT experts, we need the help of the medical teams to understand the needs of these particular users, which are elderly patients. So, we did not encounter so much technological challenges, rather the real challenge of the project is to adapt combine the knowledge of both fields to find an ICT solution to enhance the elder persons’ needs. For this reason, we consulted medical and university teams, from within and outside the project, in the development phase.

What will come afterwards for your organisation? Do you see yourself implementing the project outcomes?

Jon: Yes, if the market is ready to accept such a product – namely a game to help elderly patients in training and maintaining their cognitive capabilities, we would like to work in a first step with the hospitals, then later on maybe private sector insurance companies etc.

Once the system is established in the eHealth sector, we can move to the general public

and would like to have our game recognised as eHealth tool, not just as training game but as tool with a medical devices certification.


More information about the InLife project:

More information about VirtualWare: