Work Project

Smart Playsets

That games can motivate players is well known, but that in fact, serious games can motivate children to therapy adherence is not that familiar. In this design project we offered storylines and interaction so attractive that children often forgot that they are in fact doing exercises.

Smart Playsets

This long term design trajectory focusses on using play and serious games to empower young patients for instance to adhere to their therapy. Several partners are involved in this community of practice, which spanned from 2016-2021: Research (TU/e, HVA, UU), Consumer Electronics (PHILIPS), New Media Agencies (IJSFONTEIN), Revalidation Practices (Roessingh), Sportmaterials (Janssen & Fritzen) (LOGOS).

In the five years of this project, we developed several play environments for children with fine and gross motor skills, cerebral palsy or just to motivate youngsters regularly brushing their teeth. By experimenting in different application domains, we could focus on the specific play design elements that support motivation and therapy adherence.

The designed Smart Playsets are however more than simple games, through smart intelligent algorithms, these games offer feedback to the patients to increase the effect of the therapy and the motivation of the players. As in all games, these smart-play environments scaffold the gameplay, making the exercises more difficult or complex keeping the patient challenged. They are also adaptive in the sense that they adjust to the skills of the player.

The children can practice at home, extending the therapy. The therapist can use the data gathered in the app to give feedback and diagnose progress, a nice example of action design research where Game Design and AI is combined with users studies and prototypes.

Community of practices with students

Bachelor students from product design (HVA / Technology) as well as from Industrial Design (TU Eindhoven), master students from the Master Digital Design (HVA / FDMCI) and two PhD students at the Faculty of FDMCI from two lectorates (Digital Life and Play & Civic Media) worked together in several cycles of six months. The PhD students played a central role in this research, specializing in game design and motivation for therapy adherence. They are the link between researchers and students. In so-called squads (BA / MA / PhD students) supervised by the PhD students, design, theory and models were developed as part of their thesis and graduation projects contributing to innovation for the partners.  

The final concept is a monster who acts as a magic trick assistant. It consists of a fabric monster in which you could put a mobile phone with a special app. The app will show the mouth of the monster. Read more about Magic Monster.

Playful Empowerment let children take the initiative in their own hands, make them proud of what they can do and let them learn by doing.

STEC Project

Within the STEC project, several partners work together in communities of practice, to share a common research idea or question over a longer period, being brought to immediate practice through the industrial partner. Read more about STEC Project.

Three examples of projects within STEC Project are Brushy, Get that Cheese & Futuro Cube.


Brushy is the result of a student project focusing on games and play to motivate young children to brush their teeth together with Philips Design and Healthcare. The storyline invited the child to brush the teeth of their favorite doll, in this case a crocodile!. By teaching the crocodile to brush his teeth, the child learns how to brush his or her own teeth. The game is designed for in-home-use, to be played together with father and or mother for mental support and fun.

Get that Cheese

This game is developed for one-hand manipulations where players move small tokens that represent mice. The children must compete to bring their mouse to the cheese first. Each child moves his token-mouse as smoothly as possible, otherwise he will wake up cats and the token-mouse should be returned to its previous position on the board. While children play and manipulate the sensor-augmented token in their hands, the token collects children’s fine motor skills data and adjusts game difficulty level according to the skills of each child.

Based on practices of child physiotherapists for fine motor skills assessment, the tangible toy afforded several types of manipulations: picking up the token with one hand, flipping it around while holding it in one hand, and precisely placing it in a designated place, e.g. into a slot. The size and the form of the token brings the hand in the right position to correctly do the exercises.  The mechanics of the game should encourage players to make smooth movements while manipulating the toy with one hand. During the game the toy captures the child’s movement and adapt the game level according to the skill level of the child. This game is especially designed for group therapy but also for the early detection of motor skill deficiencies in an early stage for instance at primary school.

Futuro Cube

In the same series and to get more insight in the effect of the therapy, we used an off the shelf product, called the futoro cube. In both games that were programmed on the cube, a dot was moving on the cube by activating the colored LED’s. In the first game, called the roadrunner game, the focus was on speed. The second game on the other hand, called the maze game, focused on precision. In both games, the duration of the games was fixed so that the same amount of data was collected for each child. In the roadrunner game, the velocity of the moving dot was predetermined and the child had to follow this speed. In the second game however, the child was asked to move the dot as precisely as possible through the path without being tied to a certain pace.

In the roadrunner game, a green dot moved on the cube. The player was asked to move the cube in order to keep the spot on top of the cube. The dot moved on a certain velocity on the cube. In case the spot was at the center square of a side, it randomly turned left or right, or kept moving forward.

Further reading

Brons, A., de Schipper, A., Mironcika, S., Toussaint, H., Schouten, B., Bakkes, S., & Kröse, B. (2021). Assessing Children’s Fine Motor Skills With Sensor-Augmented Toys: Machine Learning Approach. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(4), e24237.

Full Text. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2021, from

Mironcika, S., de Schipper, A., Brons, A., Toussaint, H., Kröse, B., & Schouten, B. (2018). Smart toys design opportunities for measuring children’s fine motor skills development. Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, 349-356.

Sander, J., de Schipper, A., Brons, A., Mironcika, S., Toussaint, H., Schouten, B., & Kröse, B. (2017). Detecting delays in motor skill development of children through data analysis of a smart play device. Proceedings of the 11th EAI International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare, 88-91.