Albalyna: a NEAR game for cognitive remediation

Luis Torrao, Vitor Carvalho, Francisco Restivo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Recently, Alice Medalia et Al. published a new therapeutic approach to mental impairments problems by using video-games in treatment sessions (Medalia et Al. 2009), the Neuropsychological Educational Approach to Cognitive Remediation (NEAR). According to the World Health Organization one in every four people in the world is affected by mental or neurological disorder some time in their life (WHO 2013), in what appears to be an humanitarian emergency, considering the disproportion between this figure and the actual number of patients under treatment worldwide (WHO 2013). The NEAR method is used worldwide in learning centers where patients can play commercially available games specifically selected according to their mental training needs and assisted by clinicians. The NEAR method is the basis for the research work presented, which is focused on the creation of a novel genre of games, the 'NEAR game', materialized in the form of Albalyna (Torrao 2012), an augmented reality game that serves the purpose of training the patient's mental abilities. Game demands can be calibrated according to the condition or training needs, allowing the clinician to monitor the skill evolution the player makes inside the game. To make this possible, Albalyna is a goal driven game where levels of Attention, Memory, Problem Solving, Abstract Reasoning, Visual-Spatial Analysis and Processing Speed initially defined by or for the player conduct the overall playability. The main contribution of this research is the design of a game that fits the NEAR practice and opens the possibility of distributing professionally assisted therapeutic gameplay to mentally impaired patients that are at home. In this paper the set of technologies used in order to achieve the solution is also described. The game was constructed by means of the creation of a 3D engine displaying a world with polar and Cartesian coordinates where the game creatures can move and act. An Artificial Intelligence engine underlies the game logic, applying a goal driven technique that conducts the gameplay. The KinectTM depth sensor, RGB camera and microphone array are used so that the game can involve the player, in an augmented reality environment. The player can see herself using a helmet that illuminates the world and the creatures where and with the player can interact by means of gestures and voice commands. The first tests and evaluation results are widely positive, and more tests are needed to determine Albalyna's efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the European Conference on Games-based Learning
EditorsCarsten Busch
PublisherDechema e.V.
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781910309551
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProceedings of the European Conference on Games-based Learning
ISSN (Print)2049-0992


  • Augmented reality
  • Cognitive remediation
  • Depth sensor
  • Goal-driven game
  • Mental healthcare


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