Humanising healthcare through game-play design thinking

Endoscopy patients will soon be able to ‘play’ with their insides as part of an innovative research project that aims to integrate humans and technology through fun experiences with ingestible sensors.

Researchers from Monash University, RMIT and Deakin University have developed a system that combines medical imaging capsules with digital play. The unique system is called InsideOut and allows participants to ‘play’ with three different real-time game-like videos of their gastrointestinal tract.

Capsule endoscopy is a medical procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera with an ingestible sensor that captures footage of a patient's digestive tract. While this procedure is commonly used, it can often be uncomfortable for a patient and can be the cause of anxiety. InsideOut aims to reconsider the connection between healthcare and technology by offering an innovative and alternative approach that promotes a playful, fulfilling and somewhat calming experience by actually involving the patient in the procedure.

It involves a wearable device and imaging capsule the user swallows. The wearable device, which the user wears around their waist, contains a display showing the real-time video captured by the capsule. The software also maps the user’s body movements to various video game-like manipulations such as scaling, rotation, balancing and speed.

Project lead, Professor Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller, Director of the Exertion Games Lab in Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology (IT), says this technology has the potential to contribute to a more humanised healthcare agenda by putting the patient first.

“Through this research, our team found the experiential perspective of a patient during a medical imaging procedure was often overlooked by associated medical applications. We designed InsideOut with the aim to introduce a playful experience for people to learn more about how their bodies work on the inside,” said Professor Mueller.

“By challenging what the future of telehealth could look like, we aim to design technology in ways that recognise people’s needs and contributes to a more humanised healthcare system.”

The field research of this study derived four themes demonstrating various ‘play’ experiences and presented key design implications that will help guide the future of playful designs using imaging capsules. These four themes included; Experiencing the Enchanted Body as Subversive Play, Experiencing the Lived Body as Exploratory Play, Experiencing the Absent Body as Relaxed Play, Experiencing the Cultivated Body as Serious Play.

“Our research highlights the opportunity to use medical imaging technologies to enable intriguing and playful experiences. Furthermore, such experiences can also deepen the players’ engagement with and understanding of their bodies, ultimately contributing to a more personalised and playful experience,” explained Exertion Games Lab PhD Candidate, Zhuying Li.

A field study with healthy people was conducted as part of this research. The study allowed the participants to freely explore how they can influence their gastrointestinal tract through moving, eating, and interacting with the game-like scenarios that were mirrored on the display screen.

Researchers believe that the learnings from InsideOut can be used to design better technology to improve a patient's experience during stressful medical procedures as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle by making people more aware of their internal body, leading to better self-understanding and self-care practices.

“We believe that this technology has the potential to unlock playful new interactions that benefit both physical health and mental wellbeing. Combining imaging capsules and play encourages playful experiences and positively engages participants with their bodies, offering an opportunity for the participant to further their knowledge and understanding of their bodies,” said Professor Stefan Greuter, Co-director of the Deakin Motion Lab.

The InsideOut research paper was published at the 2020 Designing Interactive Systems Conference and won an Honorable Mention award.

To read the research paper, please visit here.