Bike Game for Muscular Dystrophy Patients


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.

Project Details

The RISI Design and Technology Team 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 which 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 auxiliary hardware, such as a monitor and speakers, are all 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.

The Design and Technology 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 learn how to ride a bike within the first 10 minutes of the session, but continued exercising until being asked to stop 20 minutes later.

The Design and Technology 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 custom 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.