Video game makers target Japan’s silver generation

Updated 23 April 2014
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Video game makers target Japan’s silver generation

At a nursing home in suburban Tokyo, 88-year-old Saburo Sakamoto darts his fingers energetically to catch characters that appear on a touch screen in front of him.
Peals of laughter erupt from the other side of the room full of octogenarians as they wallop plastic alligators that appear from little holes or wield foam hammers to crush frogs as they pop up.
“The ladies here are very agile, so it’s almost impossible for me to beat them,” says Sakamoto as he catches his breath and watches several women easily outscore him on the game he is playing.
The nursing home is run by an offshoot of Namco Bandai, the company behind 1980s arcade phenomenon PacMan, whose pill-popping escapades helped bring video games to a mass youth market.
Now the firm is part of a small, but growing band of groups developing video games and home computer entertainment for the so-called “silver generation” — Japan’s burgeoning army of elderly people, who are living longer and healthier lives than ever before.
Japan’s population has been declining since 2007 and the country is greying, with one of the world’s lowest birth rates and highest life expectancies.
“We offer entertainment so that elderly people spend the whole day playing, having fun, and getting really exhausted before returning to their home,” said Yoshiaki Kawamura, President of Kaikaya Ltd., the wholly-owned unit of Namco Bandai Holdings.
Day visitors, whose average age is 85, have a choice of activities at this government approved center, including assisted bathing, physiotherapy, lunch and a series of arcade and video games.
“The video games are very much extra-curricular, voluntary activities... but clients look very animated when they are playing,” Kawamura said.
Facility staff try to motivate the elderly, tapping into their competitive spirits by posting leader boards on the walls and running competitions to see who is the “most vigorous” every few months.
Among the titles on offer is “Dokidoki Hebi Taiji II” (Thrilling Snakebuster II), a game developed by Namco Bandai in cooperation with Kyushu University Hospital in western Japan.
Like a lifesize version of Whack-a-Mole, a seated player stamps on cartoon-like snakes that pop up at random around him.
Developers say the motion strengthens legs and hip muscles, something doctors say is important to help prevent falls.
It also increases cerebral blood flows especially to the frontal lobe, which may help to slow the progress of cognitive impairment, says Kyushu University doctor Shinichiro Takasugi.
In practice, “it is hard to get scientific proof of a particular game’s positive effect because of factors from other exercises,” said Kaikaya’s musculoskeletal nurse Miyuki Takahashi.
“But the psychological effect is unarguable — people’s faces light up when they play it.”
Takasugi agrees that there are clearly mood-enhancing benefits to be had.
“The game is an effective tool to lighten up the souls of elderly people who tend to stay at home, withdrawing from social life,” he said.
“It can also help keep them engaged with what can be boring rehab exercises.”
Where video games have historically been sedentary and solitary, improving technology means controlling characters on a screen no longer needs to be done just by hitting keys or wobbling a joystick.
The same kit that allows young gamers to kick and punch their way through a beat-em-up is now being used to liven up monotonous rehabilitation.
Using the Kinect motion sensor — developed by Microsoft for its video game console Xbox — Physical therapist Keizo Sato worked with two companies to devise game software specifically to help boost strength and suppleness.
Rehact — a contraction of the English words “rehabilitation” and “active” — is intended to provide high-quality exercises for elderly people who might live in rural areas away from specialized medical facilities.
“The scarcity of people who can provide rehab training to elderly people in smaller cities and the cost of it are challenges for ageing Japan,” said Sato, who lectures at Tohoku Fukushi University.
There are four games to choose from, each aimed at specific muscle groups, said Sato.
“But this software not only offers motivation to help people enjoy the exercises, but demonstrates the correct way to do them without the need for a therapist to be present,” he said.
Osaka-based Medica Shuppan Publisher last year released a similar game machine co-developed by Kyushu University researchers, while the same researchers are developing another one in a three-year program funded by the government.
And Nintendo, the maker of the Donkey Kong and Super Mario franchises, said late January it aims to reboot its business by entering the health care industry with “non-wearable” products.
No details have been made available on what this means, but the Kyoto-based leading game console maker already offers fitness game software Wii Fit series.
“I think these so-called “exergames” will be a powerful tool for curbing snowballing medical costs in Japan,” said Sato.


More of the same at more of the cost, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 worth it?

Updated 15 August 2018
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More of the same at more of the cost, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 worth it?

  • For a phone that doesn’t seem to look or feel much different to its predecessor, the Note 8, many will ask if it’s worth the splash
  • Samsung does not break out shipments of its smartphone models, but analysts reckon it has shipped around 10 million Note 8 models so far

DUBAI: Through the grand halls of Dubai’s recently opened Habtoor Palace, the region’s tech geeks rejoiced as Samsung Gulf launched its latest Galaxy Note 9 smartphone on Wednesday.

“It is a phone that has all the features you need to work hard and play harder,” said Tarek Sabbagh, Head of IT and Mobile (IM) Division at Samsung Gulf Electronics, adding that “it’s designed for a level of performance, power and intelligence that today’s power users want and need.”

Samsung says the battery will work on a single charge a day. It also boasts a processor that will let users view high resolution movies without having to endure the frustration of constant buffering.

All this for $1,007 for the 128 GB model, while costing almost $300 more for the 512 GB model – for a phone that doesn’t seem to look or feel much different to its predecessor, the Note 8, many will ask if it’s worth the splash.

A tech journalist speaking at the pre-launch lobby certainly didn’t think so.

“I have the Note 8, and apart from the camera and the Bluetooth clicker on the stylus, it’s basically the same,” he told Arab News.

One by one, Samsung’s GCC team made their way up to the stage following snappy, flashy videos introducing the new smartphone’s chic, sexy look – offered in three colors: Midnight Black, Ocean Blue and Lavender Purple.

Probably the most impressive and practical aspect of the new phone is the Samsung DeX. A piece of software that, with the help of a special cable, allows the smartphone to hook up to any screen and run as a desktop, all through the gadget’s processing power. This may prove especially helpful to those who travel often and don’t want to lug a heavy laptop each time.

Another plus for the Note 9 is the dual camera that comes with a dual OIS (Optical Image Stabilization).

The combination of advanced intelligence features and leading premium hardware which allows advanced noise reduction technology, and a lens that adjusts to light just like the human eye, according to the launch data.

Samsung is counting on the Note 9 to outsell the Note 8 to stem a sales slump. It said last month its flagship Galaxy S9 phone missed sales targets, sending profits in the mobile division down by a third in the April-June quarter.

Samsung does not break out shipments of its smartphone models, but analysts reckon it has shipped around 10 million Note 8 models so far.

“The jury is still out if the device can boost sales of Samsung’s premium category,” mobile phone market tracker Counterpoint Research said in a blog, pointing to stiff competition from the iPhone X, Huawei’s P20 Pro and the Find X from China’s Oppo Electronics.

(With Reuters)