15 November 2012

International awards aplenty for Exertion Games Lab

It has been an exciting few months for researchers at RMIT University's Exertion Games Lab, who have won three international awards.

The lab researches the future of gaming, with a particular focus on games which combine play with intense physical effort or, in other words, games which make exercising fun.

Recently, the lab's robotic jogging companion, Joggobot, earned a 2012 Nokia Ubimedia MindTrek Award.

The awards, which were presented at the MindTrek digital media and business festival in Finland, recognised novel combinations of ubiquitous computing and media.

Exertion Games Lab Director Dr Florian "Floyd" Mueller said the Joggobot, which could fly alongside or ahead of a jogger to engage them, exemplified the lab's thinking about the combination of physical exercise and robotics.

"Through the project we hope to enhance the understanding of why we play, further the experience of jogging and promote the consideration of robots supporting exertion activities," Dr Mueller said.

Dr Mueller is presenting tomorrow on "The Future of Fitness" at the inaugural Games for Change Festival, hosted by RMIT at the Design Hub.

The festival is the first event of its kind in Australia, bringing together organisations and individuals from the community sector, government, business, media, academia, the gaming industry and the arts to showcase the power of games as forces for social and business change.

The Exertion Games Lab's student researchers added two more awards to the tally after their attendance at the 2012 Fun and Games research conference in Toulouse, France.

Postgraduate students Cagdas "Chad" Toprak and Joshua Platt won the Student Games Design Competition for their game, Bubble Popper.

The game is designed for multiple players who must manoeuvre around one another in a shared space in order to pop virtual bubbles projected on a screen.

Mr Toprak said Bubble Popper was unique because it allowed for physical interaction between players, like in sports such as soccer and basketball.

"Unfortunately today's digital game consoles don't allow for such interactions," Mr Toprak said.

"Players are isolated from one another, and we think this is a missed opportunity."

Undergraduate students Anushka De Mel, Amy Huggard and Jayden Garner won the conference's Audience Award for their game Musical Embrace.

"This win is particularly remarkable as Fun and Games is a research conference and the three winners have not even started their postgraduate degree yet," Dr Mueller said.

Ms Huggard said the group was excited to win the award, and also valued the chance to see the international reaction to Musical Embrace.

"The main highlight of the trip to France was meeting fellow game designers and researchers from all over the world and getting feedback from them on our game," Ms Huggard said.

The Exertion Games Lab received congratulations from all over the University, with Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, congratulating staff and students for the "very good result".

Acting Dean of the School of Media and Communication, Associate Professor Fiona Peterson, congratulated the winners on behalf of the School.

"This sort of activity and international recognition is indicative of the strong links being forged between our coursework and research endeavours in this exciting and fast-moving field," Associate Professor Peterson said.

The Exertion Games Lab also took out an RMIT Media Star Award for the coverage their projects have received this year.

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Jogging with the Exertion Games Lab's Joggobot.

Palyers pop virtal bubbles with Bubble Pop

Players pop virtual bubbles in the award-winning game, Bubble Popper.

Controller for Musical Embrace

Jayden Garner and Anushka De Mel with the novel hanging game controller from Musical Embrace.