Rectech Newsletter

D1: Development of Adaptive Game Controllers and Energy Expenditure Tables for Active Video Games for Youths with Disabilities

Limitations in balance, strength, coordination, power and aerobic fitness can make it difficult for youths with physical disabilities to keep up with their peers during games or sports.  This can diminish their enthusiasm for physical activity and result in increased sedentary behavior.

Active video games (AVGs), a category of video games that require whole body movements, hold promise for promoting higher levels of physical activity, weight management, and fitness among youths. However, many current AVGs are inaccessible or offer limited play options for youths who are unable to stand, have balance issues, poor motor control, or cannot use their lower body to perform game required movements. While there exists a variety of creative adaptations to AVGs that allow people with disabilities to play video games, there are currently no research and development efforts focused on successful play as well as achieving energy expenditure comparable to that in able-bodied versions.

This project has two specific aims: 1) to develop adaptive game controllers that will allow youths with disabilities at functionally diverse levels to play active video games at a satisfactory level; and 2) to determine the energy expended playing AVGs in non-ambulatory youths with disabilities in order to create a list of MET (metabolic equivalent) values for each game.


This project will focus on Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation3 (PS3) Eye and Move systems, and Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 (Kinect).  Any motions required by the games that are difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to perform will be matched with a safe, suitable alternative that allows the player to produce an acceptable response for the game and requires a similar amount of energy.  Technology will be developed that sits between the standard controller and the console, reading a specific remapped or adapted interface. Dismantling, reverse engineering or recoding existing controllers will be performed when feasible and/or necessary. The goal is to develop simple accessory or adaptation kits rather than developing an entirely new device, allowing disabled and non-disabled players to share the same equipment and participate together.


Adaptations will be tested for feasibility and specific games categorized as low, moderate and vigorous intensity based on participants’ heart rate and respiratory gas exchange parameters. Intensity will be cross-validated with accelerometer data and MET values assigned to each game.