For people of a certain generation, "Hopscotch" will always be a game where you jump between chalk-drawn numbered rectangles. Now Fraunhofer researchers have developed an interactive version of the playground game that's designed to motivate users to learn in a fun and playful way while also helping them keep fit.
HOPSCOTCH consists of a sensor mat, which is subdivided into nine fields containing numbers and letters (like a cross between a dance mat and the keypad of a mobile phone), and a motion sensor which are connected to a monitor. The mat is then used to complete tasks or answer questions displayed on the screen with a user jumping, or hopping, between boxes.
The ActiSENS motion sensor, which is housed in a box hooked to the user's belt, measures the intensity of physical activity used while completing the tasks, and transmits the data in real time via Bluetooth. This can be used to encourage users to jump and hop more, rather than simply tapping their feet, or stored for later evaluation.
The researchers say that because HOPSCOTCH not only makes learning more fun, but also encourages people to keep fit (speedy and correct answers are rewarded with a higher number of points) it has several possible applications. These include being deployed in retirement or nursing homes to help motivate elderly people to move more, or in rehab centers where it could be used in parallel with physical therapy to train specific muscles.
But the most obvious application is in schools, where the system has already been used to help the teaching of various subjects including English, Maths, History, Biology and German. It's said pupils are better motivated to answer knowledge questions or solve tasks by hopping rather than sitting down at a desk. Tests also showed children could learn English vocabulary as efficiently with HOPSCOTCH as in a traditional way, but that they had an improved attitude towards the both the learning and language classes.
Researchers at Fraunhofer IIS and Fraunhofer IDMT will be presenting their system at the Medica 2012 trade fair in Düsseldorf from November 14-17.