Kinect gaming with a mission

Walking through the grocery store, you spy a bag of potato chips on the shelf. They’re your favorite—sea salt and vinegar—and they’re on special! Without breaking stride, you snag a bag from the display and continue on your way, hopefully in search of a more nutritious food choice.

Easy for most of us, but not for millions of cerebral palsy patients, stroke victims, and elderly people with impaired coordination. For these folks, this everyday scenario can pose a frustrating challenge, one that can even lead to a devastating fall. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a simple, inexpensive game that would help these people practice such everyday mobility tasks?

Well, there is: Country Ramble, a Kinect game available in the Windows Store (there’s also a free demo version). The brainchild of psychologist and game developer Tino Ågren, Country Ramble is a suite of three of walking games: BubbleWalk, PokerWalk, and BingoWalk. The games take the player on a stroll down a country lane, where he or she tries to pop bubbles, assemble a good poker hand, or illuminate bingo items. The goal is to provide a relaxing diversion along with exercise and coordination training.

The Kinect for Xbox One sensor is at the heart of the game. Players stand or sit in front of the Kinect sensor, which detects their movements as they march in place and reach or point with their hand. The marching movements propel players along the country lane, while the reaching and pointing gestures enable the players to burst those annoying bubbles, grab playing cards as they try to draw a straight flush (or maybe just two pair), or shine their light beam on the numbers that will result in bingo. Players can save their game results in plotted graphs or high-score tables, which provide a tangible record of improvements in mobility and coordination.

Obviously, these are not action games—but for people with mobility problems, they are as challenging as any first-person shooter. What’s more, their simple design makes the Country Ramble games perfect for people with cognitive difficulties, as well as for elderly folks who’ve had scant (or no) experience with computer gaming. Above all, Country Ramble lets players have fun while improving their mobility and coordination in an uncomplicated way.

The Kinect for Windows Team

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