December 2, 2016

A video game collaboration that stemmed from UCF’s Limbitless Solutions and the School of Visual Arts & Design was recognized today for its innovation at the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge, an event that brings together top companies in the simulation and gaming industry.

Limbitless Training Games won the Best Serious Game Innovation award at the Orange County Convention Center for its video games that people missing hands can play without having to press a button.

Limbitless Training Games integrates electromyography board technology into a series of games including Dog Jump, Smash Bro, Sushi Slap and more. It allows users to move their video-game characters – jumping, slapping or smashing, depending on the game – merely by flexing their muscles. An EMG board sticks to a user’s forearm via conductive pads to measure electric impulses in one’s muscles and trigger the game.

The idea stemmed from Limbitless Solution’s student staff members Albert Manero, executive director, and Dominique Courbin, director of production. Limbitless Solutions creates bionic arms for children missing limbs via 3-D printing, which makes the products less costly than others on the market.

“Myself and Dominique have been dreaming this up [the games] for quite some time,” said Manero. “Dominique’s been taking a lot of steps for about a year and a half to engage the School of Visual Arts and Design about this idea. We want to take the technology from the arms to create some fun and training opportunities for the kids. We provided some hardware assistance, and SVAD brought in the creative aspect.”

Peter Smith, digital media assistant professor, and undergraduate game design students Tyler Quillen and Zackary Henderson, both seniors, have been spearheading the creation of the game. Quillen and Henderson work with Smith as undergraduate researchers and accepted the award at the showcase. They’ve been working on the games since March. Some games took 16 weeks to create, while others were made in 48-hour “jam sessions.”

“It’s fulfilling to see something I’m doing help people in a positive way. To see that tangible effect, and not just receive a grade and be done. It’s a good feeling,” Henderson said.

Quillen added: “It’s been so rewarding. We got to go to a fitting when about seven kids got their arms from Limbitless. A kid was catching a football, while another girl was trying to play guitar. A lot of our work is just for a class and a grade, but this was the first opportunity for us to really make a difference.”

Kids who were receiving bionic arms from Limbitless tested out the games in September. It enhanced their excitement to receive their arms because they saw how its technology also could be used as a video-game controller, said Manero, who added it’s a way for kids to practice using the arm’s technology in a low-pressure, fun way.

Limbitless Training Games was one of 50 entries in the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge that is part of the annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference. Entries came from industry, military and student groups. Other awards included People’s Choice, Best Business Game, Best Industry Game and more.

“We were so shocked and surprised. I wasn’t expecting to win anything,” Henderson said.

Quillen added: “We’ll definitely be back, flexing strongly.”