Health gamification at the RPTU: Health support via app and VR glasses
The University of Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU) in Rhineland-Palatinate helps students and employees alike to stay active. Digital technologies are playing an increasingly important role in health management. At the medical technology trade fair “Medica” in Düsseldorf, RPTU's Center for Sports, Health and Wellbeing (ZSGW) is sharing its experiences with two products that it has put into use together with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: The “Campus Games” app and “VR Training”. Anyone interested can experience the digital exercise offers from 13 to 16 November at the Rhineland-Palatinate research stand (hall 3, stand E80).
“The health costs resulting from physical inactivity are estimated at several billion dollars annually worldwide. Digital gamification apps open up new possibilities, especially to motivate people to exercise more in everyday life,” says Julia Müller, a ZSGW staff member who launched the “Campus Games” app as part of her master's thesis.
App-based gaming to promote physical activity
The “Campus Games” app has been used annually at RPTU since 2018. For four weeks, students and employees, divided into “house teams”, play against each other. Points have to be collected across three game levels – the more strenuous a task is, the more points can be achieved. Some tasks are solved digitally, directly in the app. Most of the challenges, however, require additional activity in the analogue world, where the players collect virtual coins on campus or complete other cross-country games such as a scavenger hunt. More than 6,000 university members have taken part in the game rounds so far, some of them several times. In 2019, Campus Games, then called “Game of TUK”, was awarded University Pearl of the Year by the Stifterverband and won the ENAS Award (European Network of Academic Sport Services) at European level in 2019.
Training in virtual space
If you study and work a lot and do so mainly in a seated position – taking an active break is good for you. Müller explains this as follows: “The German University Association recommends a low-threshold exercise programme that can be carried out on site, that means in the lecture hall, seminar room or even in the office, and is intended to contribute to active regeneration. We have transferred this programme of mobilisation, strengthening, stretching exercises and playful elements to the virtual world.”
In the virtual “break express”, called VR training, a pair of VR goggles and two controllers to be held in the hand create the training environment. The necessary software is installed on the VR glasses. The user is guided by colours - in the virtual training environment, the left and right hands are coloured differently. The trainees are then shown balls or boxes in the corresponding colours, which they are supposed to reach for or smash. In addition, the whole body can be integrated by means of dodging exercises. VR training is currently in use at the RPTU's university fitness centre. Trainers can incorporate the exercises into their training plan as an alternative to classic warm-up or cool-down sequences.
Cooperation with science
Both digital “Health Games” are the result of cooperation between the Institute of Serious Games Engineering and the ZSGW. Accompanying research from the Department of Sports Science also contributes to the projects. “The sensors on the glasses and the controller in the hand can be used to record the movements of the arms and head when doing VR training. Using additional sensors, we want to find out whether and how the movement guidance in the game differs from a classic setting in which an individual shows the exercises,” says Müller. “Can postural errors occur, is the training effect comparable or even better? We are currently investigating these and other research questions.”
Health management at RPTU
RPTU understands health promotion and prevention as a strategic cross-cutting issue: As one of the first universities in Germany, it has created a separate world of health promotion and prevention for students in addition to the company health management. Student Health Management (SGM) is a model project that RPTU implements in cooperation with the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) under the name CampusPlus. As part of the SGM, the responsible persons have been developing measures and services since 2015 to support students in a healthy lifestyle and to raise general awareness of the topic of health promotion. Examples in the area of exercise promotion and stress management are the “Campus Games” app, yoga courses to combat exam stress or the hammock park on campus. The University has already received several awards for this overall package, including the Corporate Health Award in 2018 and 2020, which is one of the most important awards in Germany in the field of “workplace health management”.
Further information on “VR Training” can be found at zsgw.rptu.de/campusplus/games/vr-training
Further information on the “Campus Games” app can be found at zsgw.rptu.de/campusplus/games/campusgames
Klaus Dosch, Department of Technology and Innovation, is organizing the presentation of the researchers of the RPTU at the Medica. He is the contact partner for companies and, among other things, establishes contacts to science.
Contact: Klaus Dosch, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: +49 631 205-3001
Questions can be directed to:
Deputy Head of CampusPlus /
Center for Sports, Health and Wellbeing at RPTU
Phone: +49 631 205-5655
Since January 1, 2023, the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (TUK, University of Kaiserslautern) and the University in Landau have become the University of Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU). With over 20,000 students and more than 300 professors, the RPTU is the second largest academic institution in the state. As a place of top international research and an academic talent factory for business and science, RPTU offers excellent study and research conditions as well as a cosmopolitan environment. RPTU is also an innovation and transfer partner for politics, business and society. Those who study, learn, research or work at RPTU are part of a vibrant university community and shape the world of tomorrow.