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Games for Health

The "bus interior" view allowed students to see each others' new accessories and displayed their status messages.

The Humana Innovation Center asked: “How can we combat childhood obesity using ubiquitous computing technology?”– a question that would lead to a many year relationship between Humana and Tellart developing games for health. Leveraging our Sketchtools physical computing toolkits, we were able to fly to Kentucky (thus the horse racing theme) just days later with a working prototype for a pedometer driven online gaming experience, which would become the “Horsepower Challenge” (HPC). The first instance of the game was played between five schools in a district, with each school represented by a bus of students controlling horse avatars. The buses were powered by the kids’ steps and raced around the earth past famous landmarks. When a bus passed the pyramids at Giza, new avatar accessories like a pharaoh’s headdress were released into the game; kids could purchase new accessories for their avatar with game currency they earned with steps. HPC was a social activity beyond the outdoor sports activities it encouraged – the game released lesson plans for teachers to discuss the global landmarks in class, and provided a chat interface where classmates could rally. Thousands of kids in the US and UK have played HPC, and we continue to innovate social health games with Humana today.

Each competing school was represented by a bus, which travelled along a series of tracks according to how many steps their students took.

There was a unique track associated with each of several global "checkpoints," where students learned about the points of interest.

Historical facts and photographs were presented about each location.

Each school's collected steps were visualized each day, encouraging competition & motivation among the students

Additionally, each individual student could monitor their own progress; the more steps they took, the more virtual currency they received to accessorize their horse avatars.

The "bus interior" view allowed students to see each others' new accessories and displayed their status messages.

Accessories and designs (patterns, colors etc) could be bought and sold in a virtual store.

Students could "try on" items that they couldn't afford yet, which gave incentive to collect more steps.

An early wireframe sketch of the design.

The students all wore wireless-enabled pedometers on their shoes to count the steps and upload the data each day when the students visited the school cafeteria.

"Race Against Time" gave the game an expanded graphic theme and scalable interface, as well as a comprehensive administrative solution for the game that allows teachers, school administrators, and Humana personnel to take more active roles in monitoring and content provision. The players travel around the world and unlock new characters (each an endangered animal from a new continent) and accessories, gaining points for themselves and their school as they go.


In addition to Horsepower Challenge, we have created a suite of physical computing activity games for Humana’s Innovation Center office space – using web-connected sensors embedded in clothing, mobile devices, toys, exercise equipment, home and office accessories and appliances, and even buildings themselves. These challenges encourage people to be more physically active through social web-based games. Each experience is connected to the Humana employees’ RFID badges, which allows them to participate in scheduled events, accrue points, and win top scores. A major component of every one of these games is the social platform behind them, which has been proven to be a major motivator in building and maintaining enthusiasm for healthy living. The ideas are developed through collaborative brainstorms, facilitated by Tellart and including Humana Innovation Center personnel. Tellart then refines the ideas, proposing and implementing several of them per round as medium-fidelity prototypes for the office.

Hydration Challenge:

Hydration Challenge

Hydration Challenge started using a station that used an RFID reader and a scale ensemble to measure water consumption by each employee.

Health Fishtank

Health Fishtank is a large display which acts as a platform for social health gaming. Each employee has a fish avatar in the tank which they can customize in shape, color and pattern. Players wear wireless pedometers that sync with the web whenever they are in the office to upload their step count. The players drive the swimming activity of their respective avatar fish with their pedometer step activity. Players with higher daily step counts swim higher in the tank, and schools of fish are formed by people with similar step totals. A web interface can be used at home to monitor your performance, or to click on other fish to see who they are and their progress. Whether it is just walking by the tank in the office and catching a glimpse of your position in the tank, or commenting on a friend’s avatar to egg them on, Health Fishtank is a social health gaming experience.

Yoga Ball Game Controller

Yoga Game Ball transforms a yoga ball into a game controller, taking the classic fun of arcade games (such as Pac-Man and Galaga) and giving them a healthy twist.

Jump Rope Challenge

Sketch for a "Jump Rope Challenge." Tellart facilitates collaborative brainstorming sessions with the Humana Innovation Center, and then refines the ideas and proposes several options for prototyping.