Getting gamers to use their heart rate to control the main character of a new computer game could get people more active, say researchers.

Using new technology that links everyday smart watches to a computer game, researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University hope to change how games and exercise are combined.

Studies have shown that those who play video games excessively, as well as those who engage in other forms of extreme screen time, have a higher risk of health issues associated with physical inactivity.

However, the new study aims to change this, by getting gamers to accelerate their heart rate in real life in order to move a character in the game.

Participants will have to run or jump on the spot to get their heart racing and help the 2D character escape the enemy chasing them.

The faster the participants run or jump increases their heart rate, which is picked up by their smart watch connected to the computer and helps their character move faster.

Dr John Henry, lead researcher on the game and Senior Lecturer in Computer Games at Manchester Met, said: “Games are a very engaging form of media that can help people escape from a time and place into different experiences. Our project uses the immersive qualities of games and combines it with smart watches, creating a prototype for a gaming experience that is controlled by a person’s heart rate alone.

“We see strong potential for this technology to help encourage exercising and have received positive feedback around the concept and how the technology works from participants that have been testing the prototype and from the general public that have played the game during our outreach events.”

Researchers are now investigating how the concept can be applied to improve skills in young children through exercise and are hoping to work with other organisations to further develop the game.

If successful in their testing, the team hope that the game – named Cardia – could be used in PE lessons in schools, and even in people’s home.

Cardia was created in partnership with researchers at Coventry University who have already held a number of playtesting events to help test and develop the effectiveness of the game in increasing physical activity.


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