Improving wellbeing and changing lives – how videogames are helping children with Cystic Fibrosis breathe more easily
This is what games can do in the physiotherapy space. There are so many applications.Jamie Bankhead, CEO – Konglomerate Games
Gaming For Good
Games are no longer played solely for ‘mere’ entertainment. A growing number of companies around the world are exploring the ways in which tools, technologies, and techniques pioneered in gaming can be utilised in other contexts such as education, healthcare, leisure, and team-building.
Games for good stretch from consumer focused titles such as fitness trackers and ‘brain training’ games, to educational apps, through to complex academic and clinical projects focusing on specific medical conditions, which have profound consequences on the lives of millions of people around the world.
‘Serious’ and ‘applied’ games have a great deal to offer society, as it comes to terms with the reality of a far more digital future, thanks to the ongoing impact of Covid-19.
Games For Health & Wellbeing
In 2018, nine games students studying game design at the university of Abertay started work on a group project: Project Fizzyo, which focused upon using technologies and techniques from videogames within a healthcare context. Four members of the group found that they were closely aligned in their ideas about the more serious use of games and agreed to pursue this aspect of applied gaming.
Throughout the rest of their degree courses, these four students carried out more research into the work that was being done within clinical and medical organisations, and how different aspects of healthcare could be ‘gamified’ to increase patient wellbeing.
Project Fizzyo is an initiative between engineers and computer scientists from Microsoft, University College London (UCL) and Great Ormond Street Hospital, which focuses on helping children with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) perform breathing exercises.
Children suffering from CF are asked to do regular breathing exercises to learn the proper techniques, and to clear the lungs and airways. This can take up to an hour per day. It quickly becomes repetitive and boring. So adherence to the exercise is low, despite the fact it can greatly improve the life expectancy and quality of life for those who complete it.
The Fizzyo device is a wireless sensor that connects to existing CF physiotherapy equipment, turning breaths into controls for video games.
The team at Abertay focused their efforts on using the new sensor-enabled technology to design and develop Cape Breeze, a videogame which would encourage, reward and incentivise children to improve their technique and complete their breathing challenges.
In order to participate fully in the project, and benefit from funding which was available, the team took the decision to create a company focused on creating serious games.
The collaboration between Project Fizzyo and Konglomerate Games has been a huge success. The team are hugely professional and creative, they instantly “got ” what the project is about and have made not just one but three top quality games embedded in an incredible fantasy island, which was more than we could have ever imagined possible. Cystic Fibrosis is a tough disease and we hope to reduce some of the huge treatment burden with our research, the collaboration with KG has enabled us to test the power of physiotherapy driven gaming to improve the lives of these children.Emma Raywood: PhD Student and lead investigator Project Fizzyo.
In October 2019, Konglomerate Games was founded. The four co-founders wanted to focus on their work with Project Fizzyo, as well as explore other opportunities within the rapidly evolving serious games space.
The company received support and assistance from Bell St Ventures, the University of Abertay’s enterprise centre. The centre was able to advise the new company on the wide range of grants and funding competitions open to the studio.
Konglomerate successfully pitched their game concept to the UK Games Fund. The studio has also recently won funding from the Unlock Enterprise, and the Converge Impact challenge. At the end of 2020 Konglomerate was named the winner of the prestigious Santander Universities Entrepreneurship competition.
Konglomerate Awards To Date
- International Serious Play Gold Award
- Converge Impact Challenge Runner Up (£10,000)
- Courier Business Awards Enterprise in Education Winner
- Courier Business Awards Games Company Finalist
- Young Scot Nurturing Talent winner (£1,000)
- Unloc Enterprise Challenge winner (£10,000)
- UK Games Fund Round 6 grant winner
- SIE Catalyst and SIE Fresh Ideas Finalists
- Scottish Young Edge Finalist
- Santander Universities Entrepreneur Competition winner (£30,000 + intern)
- Start-up Summit Semi Finalists
- TATA Varsity Finalists
- Unlocking Ambition Finalist
The company is now carrying out work-for-hire projects to generate revenue, working with other studios located within the Dundee cluster, as well as a fellow Converge Challenge winning business, based in Edinburgh.
Thanks to this diverse range of projects, the company founders were able to start working full-time in June 2020, despite the restrictions of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The studio’s focus on research has enabled it to secure space within InGAME, the games and media enterprise innovation centre in Dundee city centre, putting it at the heart of the rapidly evolving cluster.
Medical trials of the Project Fizzyo device and the game created by Konglomerate will be complete by the end of 2020. While it takes time to analyse the data, the company is hopeful that it will have the necessary results in place to lead to a commercial release in 2021.
Konglomerate’s goal is to get the game into the hands of as many people with CF as possible. Potential customers could be major health providers, or sold directly to consumers.
The studio is already looking for other projects within related areas of healthcare and physiotherapy. Cape Breeze could be redesigned to measure peak flow for asthma sufferers, or help to treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which affects almost 2.4% of the global population.
Konglomerate has ambitions to join larger, more multi-disciplinary, multi-centre research projects, which would help them to create even larger and more comprehensive data sets, which could lead to further games, helping more people around the world.
As a result of its work on Project Fizzyo and Cape Breeze, Konglomerate Games was asked to deliver a presentation entitled: ‘Creating Physiotherapy Games: Efficacy, Data and Accessibility’ at the 2020 Unity for Humanity summit, a two-day online event that brought together creators, activists, nonprofits, funders, philanthropists, and brands which are harnessing real-time 3D technology to power social impact and real-world change.
We can measure every single breath, of every single treatment, of every single day, while playing a game. It’s a miracle that data is pouring in, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.Eleanor Main: Professor of Physiotherapy, University College London