'Guts Game' makes play using ingestible sensors

November 21, 2018 // By Rich Pell
'Guts Game' makes play using ingestible sensors
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (Melbourne, Australia) have designed a two-player game using ingestible sensors where the players play against each other by causing changes in their gut.

Players of the "Guts Game" must complete a variety of tasks, each of which requires the players to change their own body temperature as measured by the swallowable sensor. While there are already many ingestible sensors on the market that can measure a user's body temperature, pH value, pressure, or serve as endoscopy tools for medical purposes, the researchers say they designed the game in order to explore the potential of such sensors for game designers.

"We can see these devices might become more and more common in the medical field," Zhuying Li, a Ph.D. candidate at RMIT University, told Digital Trends. "However, some people might feel uncomfortable to ingest a foreign object. We believe games [based] around sensors can motivate patients to use the sensor and enhance the overall experience of the treatment. Our game shows an opportunity to make pill-taking interesting."

Such sensors, say the researchers, may create novel bodily experiences for players when it comes to digital games. In the case of the "Guts Game," players start by each swallowing a CorTemp sensor, which wirelessly transmits a user's core body temperature as it travels through their digestive tract.

The goal of the game is to rid their body of a virtual parasite within 24 to 36 hours by performing real actions that can affect body temperature, such as drinking hot or cold drinks, eating sweat-inducing spicy food, exercising, and more. The game is finished when the sensor is excreted, at which point the winner is the player who has accumulated the most points.

Through a study of the game that interviewed players about their experience, the researchers derived four design themes: Bodily Awareness, Human-Computer Integration, Agency (i.e., the level of control that the player perceives to have in a game), and Uncomfortableness. They then used the four themes to articulate a set of design strategies that they say designers can consider when aiming to develop engaging ingestible games.

The sensor used in the "Guts Game" was only able to measure the body temperature, so the ability of using other sensor data, say the researchers, might enrich their findings further. Looking forward, they believe that their work could serve as a springboard for future investigations, and plan to explore other novel forms of games with ingestible sensors.

"Designing playful experiences around ingestible sensors is an unexplored area," say the researchers. "Our work offers the first understanding towards the design of games around ingestible sensors through the design and study of the Guts Game."

"We argue that the Guts Game provides a compelling example of ingestible games," they say. "The work not only puts forward the idea that a playful and engaging experience can be designed when using ingestible sensors but also introduces ingestibles to the game design, which may help us step a bit closer towards the future that promotes to experience our bodies as digital play. This is important because it may engage the human body through games and contribute to a more humanized technological future."

For more, see "The Guts Game: Towards Designing Ingestible Games" (PDF)

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