Virtual game helps young cancer patients

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 58, No. 6, July August 2016, Page 332 News

A virtual reality game that helps youth deal with cancer treatment is the latest pain management tool being developed in SFU’s Pain Studies Lab. The game was created by two students in the university’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology who spent time in hospital as youth, Mr Henry Lo and Ms Janice Ng.

During their research the students discovered that most pain studies involve adults rather than teenagers and youth, while it is younger patients who often experience pain and boredom when they are stuck in bed, and discomfort can be more extreme at a younger age.

Their creation, Farmooo, is inspired by games such as Pain Squad, Farmville (a 2D farm simulation), and Gardening Mama. The students tailored the game to the special needs of patients, who can conduct physical tasks in the virtual farm by using simple hand movements. The game is aimed at 12- to 18-year-olds and is run on a screen that plays at 70 frames per second to prevent dizziness.

Both students have spent extended periods of time in hospital—Mr Lo was diagnosed with lymphoma when he was in grade 11 and required chemotherapy treatment, and Ms Ng spent many hours in hospital with ear ailments. Their experiences led to a desire to develop games and software to speed up medical procedures and eliminate discomfort for patients and families.

SFU Professor Diane Gromala supervised the work and notes that the game is the latest in the lab’s efforts to develop virtual reality approaches to address health care issues. Professor Gromala holds a Canada Research Chair in Computational Technologies for Transforming Pain at SFU, and has spent nearly 25 years creating systems to address acute, chronic, and cancer pain.

Farmooo will be tested later this year at BC Children’s Hospital.

. Virtual game helps young cancer patients. BCMJ, Vol. 58, No. 6, July, August, 2016, Page(s) 332 - News.

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