Bike Game for Muscular Dystrophy


Some children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have not engaged in a habitual exercise routine in their entire childhood lives to date.

Design Solution

Design an experience in which the adolescent users would participate in a bicycling exercise routine, by turning the act of exercise into an interactive video game. This project was made possible as a result of research conducted by the team of Jerry Mendell, MD, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute and collaboration with the Biomedical Engineering team at Nationwide Children's.

Project Details

The RISI User Experience Team (UET) designed and developed two custom games, in addition to designing and leading the effort to modify an off-the-shelf bicycle to act as a game controller.

  •  Both game designs center around a game play mechanic, which requires that the child pedals the bicycle in order to progress in the game.
  • The bicycle is also outfitted with a controller and dual-buttons embedded in the handlebar, which provide additional actions in the custom games.

The bicycle is designed to be "plug and play," and is attached to the computer, which powers the games via a standard USB interface. The PC that runs the games is a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which proved to be an ideal form-factor for this purpose. Not only is the Surface Pro a moderately powerful PC at its heart, but all auxilliary hardware, such as a monitor and speakers, are also built into the unit. Therefore, the PC could be mounted in front of the child on the bicycle's handlebar, leading to a more portable and immersive experience for the patient.

The UET R&D group's bicycle game has been provided to two patients to date, with more patients in the pipeline. The first patient to receive the bicycle had not, as anticipated, previously ridden a bicycle. Through the strategy and design that was employed when creating the bicycle games and controller, this child was not only able to ride a bike within the first 10 minutes of the session, but continued exercising until being asked to stop 20 minutes later.

The UET R&D group learned three major points during this project:

  1. Patient experiences are not exclusively hardware- or software-based, but rather a combination of the two; thus, custome hardware and software combined are becoming the deliverable.
  2. Custom hardware development is becoming ubiquitous as custom application development, and both work best when executed in tandem.
  3. User-centered design reduces adoption barriers and encourages habitual use.