AN INNOVATIVE GAMIFICATION APPROACH FOR TREATING ACROPHOBIA USING VIRTUAL REALITY AND GESTURE RECOGNITION

O. Balan1, R. Taerel1, I. Mocanu1, A. Moldoveanu1, F. Moldoveanu1, O. Cramariuc2

1University Politehnica of Bucharest (ROMANIA)
2Centrul IT pentru Stiinta si Tehnologie (ROMANIA)
This paper presents a new concept in the context of treating acrophobia using games. In order to create a controlled environment in which the user can be exposed to stimuli that generate acrophobic reactions we used elements of Virtual Reality. Several scenes have been designed with the purpose of increasing the efficiency level of the exercises, with the aim of replicating as accurately as possible the real-world environment.

The game is composed of various levels within scenes. The transition between levels is simultaneous with the increase of height at which the user is exposed. The Virtual Reality device has the purpose of immersing the player within the scene, while for each level in the scene there is a set of activities that the player needs to perform through gestures that are recognized and interpreted using the Microsoft KInect device. This ensures access to the next level. Gamification elements are used for maintaining and stimulating the player in the virtual environment. Because we want to create a realistic and safe setting for the user, he is permanently monitored via galvanic skin response and pulse rate. In this way, the player is kept in a controlled stress that has no negative impact on his health. At the same time, we can observe the impact of the scenes on his acrophobic symptoms.

Moreover, we know that while using Virtual Reality devices, the player can experience dizziness and loss of balance. Through the motion capture device, the player has a continuous feedback concerning his posture, receiving information on how to move in order to prevent accidents during gameplay sessions. Another novelty element is the audio part. Specific sounds are included so that we can reproduce a realistic environment. As music has a positive impact on a person’s state of mind, we introduce the option that the user can choose the music he prefers and listen to it through the scenes. This increases comfort and wellbeing.

In the game there will be several scenes in which the user is gradually exposed to different heights. The transition between scenes represents the accomplishment of a progress gained at a previous stage and is based on the physiological data acquired from pulse rate and galvanic skin response. For instance, if the user experiences increased heart rate and feels stressed at some height level, he is instantly directed to a lower altitude where he feels more at ease.

In the paper we give a detailed description of the game’s structure and design, from both the usability and technology points of view, together with the gamification concepts that are used. We expect to help acrophobic patients reduce at least in part their fear of height in a safe and controlled experimental procedure by replicating as accurately as possible realistic and common environment.