Unless it’s the junk food and endless energy drinks you down while playing a marathon session of Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s not all that often that video games can be said to play havoc with your guts. But that could be about to change — and in a good way, too. In Australia, researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have created the “Guts Game,” a swallowable biosensor which offers an unusual new spin on the concept of gamification.
“There are already many ingestible sensors that can measure the user’s body temperature, pH value, pressure, or serve as endoscopy [tools] on the market,” Zhuying Li, a Ph.D. candidate at RMIT University, told Digital Trends. “We can see these devices might become more and more common in the medical field. 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.”
The Guts Game takes the form of a two-player endeavor in which both players start by swallowing a CorTemp sensor. This tiny wireless sensor is designed to transmit information about the swallower’s core body temperature as it travels through their digestive tract. Both players must complete game tasks by changing the body temperature measured by an ingestible sensor. The goal is to get rid of a virtual parasite within 24 to 36 hours. To do this, they can perform real actions like drinking hot or cold drinks, eating spicy food to cause them to sweat, exercising hard, and more. The game ends when the sensor is excreted. The winner is the player who racks up the most points during that time. Think of it like a swallowable, bio-sensing version of the game “Simon says.”
“We have done a user study with 14 participants,” Li continued. “The results showed that people liked the Guts Game overall. Players appreciated the feeling of freedom given by the sensor: The players could not feel the presence of the sensor physically after swallowing. Also, the players appreciated their body being the game interface … rather than just using their fingers to tap the screen or keyboard.”
The researchers think that such a gamification experience could one day be used to ensure that people adhere to a course of treatment by transforming it into a more enjoyable, relatable experience. Making people aware of just what is going on inside their bodies, and how this is influenced by external factors, could also help drive more awareness around health issues.