Children are game to learn about health with apps

Computer games to promote healthy tummies might seem ironic, but two new apps aim to help kids of all ages better appreciate the benefits of keeping their guts in good working order.

Researchers and developers at University College Cork recently launched Living Gut for iPad and ==&=Alimentary Assault 3D[/url] for Android devices.

After initial testing and feedback from local primary pupils, they even managed to fix a minor bug in the small intestine level of Alimentary Assault.

In the game, the player must drive a miniature jet through the human digestive system, all the time avoiding viruses and harmful bacteria and using beneficial probiotics to resist attacks.

“I really like playing Alimentary Assault, it’s brilliant fun. And because I’m learning stuff, my mum thinks it’s great too,” said 10-year-old Hugo Guénebaut, a pupil of Cork Educate Together National School.

For iPad users, Living Gut also offers a tour through the intestinal tract, but parents need not worry about either app turning their children into couch potatoes.

“Trying to promote health and then telling kids to sit down for five hours playing a computer or phone game would be totally counterproductive. So we’ve kept them to about five minutes each, with just a couple of levels,” said Marc McCarthy, a researcher at UCC’s Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre.

He teamed up with Sabin Tabirca in the university’s computer science school, in collaboration with James Finn as part of his master’s degree in interactive media, to develop the apps.

Several hundred people, mostly in the US and Canada, have already downloaded them.

“Human biology is one of the most important things we should know about, so what better way to allow kids learn about it in a way they like and where they can learn at a pace they like,” he said.

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