The Portable Exergame Platform for Elderly (PEPE) was recently featured on RTP1 Portugal em Directo on World Alzheimer Day.

Joining research teams from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), IST, NOVA/FCT, Faculdade de Motricidade Humana (FMH) and the Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI), this augmented reality platform has been developed to answer various public concerning issues regarding an aging population. It also counts on companies like PLUX and iDreams Robotics, but mostly on several research institutions. ISR designed the whole robotic platform while the FMH designed the physical exercises and ITI integrated them in video games.

Promoting physical exercise through an interactive platform, contributes not only for an active aging but also as a therapeutic tool. “It’s All-in-One transportable platform that transforms everyday rooms into activity areas. The augmented reality content is projected on the floor and a motion sensor on PEPE itself detects the player movements that command the games. That’s a clear advantage of this platform since it eliminates the need for controllers, joysticks or wires attached to the player.” explains Heitor Cardoso, one of the ISR-researchers involved in the project. “Motivated by the score and distracted by the game, the user ends up experiencing as much physical effort as they would in a cognitive rehabilitation or physical therapy session. It’s much easier to ‘pick up’ twenty balls in a game than to have to raise your arms up and down just for the sake of the exercise.” continues Heitor.

While the games are adapted to the cognitive and physical capabilities of the elderly population, their content is also adjusted to their occupational interests. That includes, for example, musical themes, grape stomping (a method of maceration used in traditional winemaking) or downhill toboggan ride (Madeira). “This technology is already used in several day centers and it’s a really well accepted system both for therapists and for the practitioners,” says Ricardo Ribeiro, involved in the project from the early beginning. “Not only is it entertaining and creates engagement with the users, but it has already been showing positive results”.

For patients with Alzheimer it’s a safe alternative to slowdown the disease progression through physical exercise and cognitive stimulation. It eliminates the risk associated with each activity and it guarantees the player security, through obstacle removal in the projection area.

Being portable, it also has other advantages for both the user and physiotherapist. According to Ricardo Ribeiro, it “creates an opportunity for the patient to develop a more autonomous work, relieving the workload of the therapists and opening the possibility to new therapy treatment sessions at home.”

In the near future, the aim is to assess the overall state of the user measuring progression of the movements throughout time, a clear example of how artificial intelligence can be useful to the public.

Alzheimer Awareness September raises consciousness and challenges the stigma that persists around dementia. September 2021 marked the 10th year of this vital global awareness raising campaign. World Alzheimer’s Day was September 21st.

You can see the full interview here.