The focus of my masters is to explore the concept of using gaming technology to create interactive relaxation or therapy experiences.
Computer games and gaming environments are an ideal tool for creating relaxation experiences because of the level of immersion that they can cause in the player who is not just passively experiencing events, they can interact, explore and experiment. If the ambience and visualisation of the experience is tranquil and there is depth to how it responds to the player’s activities, then they can become fully involved and potentially find a calming space in their mind. Great game experiences can sometimes be like meditation in the way that the player removes all distractions from their one focus, the stimulation of the game which they are responding to on an instinctive level. This sensation can happen in very action orientated games, despite the highly stressful situations that they represent. If this focus could be replicated in a more gentle way, then it could come closer still to that place of peace.
Having already experimented with using an open source development program (Blender 3D), I believe it is possible to create prototypes of these experiences using affordable software and hardware in a relatively short time.
Aims and Objectives:
Identify some potential target groups for interactive relaxation/therapy experiences and what would their particular requirements be. An example would be people with limited physical dexterity would require an interface that was robust and easy to use. Select a group or groups to develop for.
Examine potential interactive concepts that could be used for therapy/relaxation. Potential concepts include creative art tools, shared interactive spaces, exploratory environments and abstract audio visual interactions.
Research and test user interfaces. The main factors for assessing each interface’s practicality would be ease of use, level of control and cost.
Use focus groups and/or individuals to test prototypes
Develop the concept with the most potential into a more fully realised proof of concept.
My first research goal is to get a strong idea of what is already out there in the commercial and medical fields. I will try to gauge the effectiveness of these different experiences and get a stronger idea of who may be a good target audience and what sort of relaxation game would suit them best.
My second research goal is to explore in more depth methods of interaction and how they can have an emotional effect. This will include exploring the use of audio visual stimulus and iconography. I will also look at more traditional forms of relaxation and therapy to see how these established methods can be adapted into an interactive experience.
In parallel to these goals, I will be developing and testing prototypes to get some direct feedback on what concepts work well in real life situations.
Key Challenges and issues:
If I plan to make therapeutic interactive experiences for actual medical use, I will need to find out how I properly authenticate the quality of my research and also Identify very clearly what ‘target audience’ I plan to make the experience for.
I will need to use focus groups to test my prototypes. If my focus groups consist of vulnerable people (children, people with mental health difficulties, medical patients), I will need to get an approval from the university ethics board(is this right?) and fill out a disclosure form.
The range of research is broad, maybe too broad. Topics include: mainstream relaxation games, the therapeutic use of interactive technology for psychological treatment, Interface and sensor technology and the psychology of audio visual interaction
I can currently make basic prototypes of my ideas, however if I want work more efficiently, I will need a programmer and possibly another artist to develop projects quicker.
I need to make myself familiar with the Arduino as soon as possible in order to be able to explore interface concepts.