March 18, 2020
Video games have almost always been about epic stories mixed in with challenging and entertaining gameplay. From the original home console, the Magnavox Odyssey, to the current rivalry between Microsoft and Sony, the gaming industry has seen a massive evolution in technology. Gaming isn’t just about relaxation and pastimes but has practical uses as well. In fact, there’s a big push for gaming and its AI to be used in the medical field.
Due to the vast amount of different and innovative hardware in the gaming sector, as well as different genres of titles, video games can be used in a number of medical applications. These applications may consist of everything from treating PTSD to helping those who previously couldn’t play video games.
Developer and publisher Nintendo is known to be an innovative company, just look at the GameBoy and Wii consoles and their sales numbers. They own some of the biggest names in gaming, such as the Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda franchises, and have hardware that is known throughout the world. It’s obvious that the company would also look to help in the medical field as well.
One of the company’s latest releases, Mario Kart 7 Deluxe on the Switch console, includes assisted steering and auto acceleration modes when racing. Though the new features have drawn criticism from a number of vocal gamers and websites, they do have a practical use besides helping those who aren’t good at games: allowing disabled players to experience the title.
As user MyAudioDNA pointed out on Reddit, his 4-year-old daughter is now able to play video games with her siblings thanks to Mario Kart 7 Deluxe and its AI which assist her in leading a healthy life. His daughter had a stroke shortly after she was born and has difficulty in coordinating the right side of her body. MyAudioDNA says the girl can now either steer with the controller and not have to accelerate, or vice versa thanks to the new assisted-AI features.
“She is currently sitting in my living with my other 2 kids and my wife and all of them are playing Mario Kart and laughing their heads off. This is truly a day I won't forget thanks to Nintendo,” writes MyAudioDNA.
The AI in Mario Kart is programmed to assist drivers when veering off the designated race courses. This auto correction may not be a breakthrough in medical technology, but it at least gives those who have suffered through strokes the ability to play games and enjoy themselves.
Though there many video games that simulate war for entertainment purposes, these are able to help PTSD survivors. In an article on Polygon, a private in the US army, Erik Johnson, used video games to help himself recover from a horrific accident. He now helps other soldiers with the use of AI in gaming.
According to Johnson, war games can be programmed with highly realistic AI and battle conditions, such as team-mates screaming for help, and how forces advance. These simulated conditions are used to help overcome PTSD without the need to put anyone in harm’s way.
Developments are being made in the way AI can help humans and their motor controls. Those who suffer from strokes tend to lose some ability to use certain parts of their body. With AI, the system is able to estimate what the user wants to do and move a character on-screen accordingly.
This has benefits in gaming, as the AI would be able to continuously adapt to the player. AI in shooting games would be able to adjust the difficulty level in a game in a responsive way to the user’s actions. Those with disabilities, or who are going through physical therapy, can play games which would monitor their responses and give feedback.
If you are interested in video games and how technology is changing the world, take a look at our article on gaming and artificial intelligence. Alternatively, read our article on AI in Medtech, which explores how AI is changing the healthcare industry.