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When Your Gym Is An Arcade, And Your Arcade Says You Have Cancer

But it looked so fun!

What if going in for a medical checkup didn’t involve waiting in a sterile white room decorated with cotton balls and otoscope attachments? What if, instead, you could step up to play a game, as if you’re visiting an old-school arcade?

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That’s the premise of Fitzania, an interactive exhibit that was on display at the UAE’s recent Museum of the Future installation, conceived by Tellart and produced by Specular. Fitzania is like a body-tracking Microsoft Kinect game, imagined for the year 2030. Players are challenged to swing a four-pound ball to match onscreen prompts, all while being inundated by the dazzling digital overload of a projection mapped room.

“The angle we were going for was, most kids don’t get enough exercise. The user experience of going to the doctor is terrible and scary to most kid,” explains Dr. Noah Raford, Advisor to the UAE’s Strategic Projects Department. “How could we design an experience that could fit into the larger system of healthcare and wellness.”

But it’s not just an exercise game. While kids (or adults) played the game, the system would, in theory, be tracking all sorts of biometrics during the challenge. Heart rate. Respiration. Reflexes and cognitive speed. The data would be uploaded to their private medical records, serving as an automated checkup, or another data point before their next physical.

The idea may seem a bit absurd, but it’s actually a designed in response to a rapidly shifting medical infrastructure. Increasingly, we’re seeing healthcare shift away from hospital visits to services being offered by pharmacies and telemedicine. At the same time, wearables are teasing the possibilities of more data, drawing a longitudinal view of one’s health, rather than a once-a-year snapshot taken at your doctor. And many insurance carriers are focusing on the potential savings of preventing illness rather than treating it, and offering subsidized coverage of gym memberships and dietary counseling. Fitzania sits at a conceptual epicenter of these trends as a means of mixing decentralized health care with free workouts and the quantified self.

If you’re anything like me, and you’re a bit freaked out by the possibility of arcade-based gyms tracking your biometrics while your insurance company may be looking on, “That’s part of the point,” says Raford. “We’re using simulated technology to bring up social issues we need to wrestle with. It’s one thing to say, medical record privacy is going to be a big deal in the future, here’s another policy paper on big medicine. And it’s another thing to get that spine tingling sensation–is this real?”

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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