Virtual reality game launched at UAE University to tackle obesity in children

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland

A new video game called EMEL was trialled last week at United Arab Emirates University’s Department of Physical Education in a bid to prevent and manage childhood obesity.

Assistant Professor from the department at the College of Education, Dr. Maroua Belghali, created the game.

Belghali told MenaFN: EMEL (ENJOY, MOVE, EDUCATE, AND LOSE WEIGHT) is the world’s first medical serious [game] to both treat and prevent childhood obesity. Its main purpose is to stimulate more physical activity and better nutrition education into kids’ [lives].”

To play EMEL, children engage in both physical and mental activities using virtual reality 3D glasses, special shoes and shirts which observe their heart rate whilst they are playing the game, which lasts for 45 minutes.

Part of the game involves a virtual bike ride, during which children are taught about the advantages of healthy foods in contrast to fast foods. When they come across both types of foods during this activity, they have to pick a soft drink or a carrot to continue the game. If they pick the former, they will slow down and have heavier breathing, and if they pick the latter, they will go faster and have clearer vision in their VR glasses.

The pandemic played a big role in increasing bad food habits in children globally, especially during lockdowns, when physical exercise and the consumption of unhealthy foods including red meat and sugary drinks increased according to research from Italy.

In the UK, the Government is trying to decrease obesity levels across the country by banning TV advertising of food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar before the 9pm watershed. By April 2022, calorie information also must be displayed on menus and food labels in large hospitality businesses and restaurant chains, and there will be restrictions on in-store promotions of HFSS food and drink. 

EMEL is showcased in the Australian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which is taking place between 1 October 2021-31 March 2022.

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