What Is The Trust Project?
Children in extended hospital stays are not just afflicted by illnesses; they often have to grapple with the stress, and even anxiety, that comes from a battery of tests and treatments. Therapeutic play that encourages such children to express themselves and to maintain social and emotional bonds with others can enhance the recovery process of these children.
To this end, the NTU GameLAB of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and SMARTLab UK of the University of the Arts London (UAL) have developed possibly the world's first multi-purpose haptic chair system for children's hospital environments. NASA in the US also has a haptic chair system but theirs is configured for astronaut training.
The SMARTlab's long term collaboration with haptics and robotics researchers including Dr Brian Duffy- creator of the Haptic Chair System known formally as the ActiveChair - allowed a team of UK and Irish researchers to bring their game and interfaces for further development in Singapore. The TRUST game - created by Dr Lizbeth Goodman and in development for the past three years with a team of collaborating institutions worldwide – has been customized for use by children in Singapore in the past 3 months. The game exploits game technology to present children between the ages of eight and 13 with virtual worlds that unfold before them on the screen of the system. The system employs a game engine and an associated software framework. The chair per se is pneumatically operated and consequently 'active'. It has a haptic interface that is synchronized and congruent with game play. A series of input devices for the hands, legs and/or feet to activate movement, sound and even music is provided. For those who are unable to move their limbs, the system can also be operated by the patient using voice and breath.
The chair system is thus configured to empower child patients to manipulate an integrated immersive experience through the virtual worlds of TRUST, in which children in hospital wards, and also young people with physical disabilities, can run and play freely.
Because the TRUST game's ActiveChair interface can also be networked with other models of the system over the internet, users in different parts of the country and even in different countries can also share virtual worlds, and express themselves and interact with others through play. Much more than a distraction, the TRUST game contributes to the improvement of child patients in many realms -- psychological, social and emotional -- as a simple aid in the management of his or her illness or disability.
Says the Director of NTU GameLAB, Assoc Prof Tony Chan, "The NTU GameLab is pleased to utilise our expertise and resources in game technology to realise possibly a unique world-first with which we hope will bring joy to infirmed children and aid them on their road to recovery. The engaging nature of the gameplay and the opportunity for them to express themselves and communicate with others through it will help alleviate some of the loneliness and misery of these children facing extended hospitalisation. We are glad that our research at NTU is able to meet real needs like these."
Adds Dr Lizbeth Goodman, Director, SMARTLab UK & creator of the TRUST game internationally: "We are delighted with the results of the ActiveChair system in its first trial run here in Singapore, and we are inspired by the level of interest of the young people and researchers here too. We hope this demonstration will show that it is possible to inspire trust and hope with game technology, and that active play of all kinds certainly has its place in the rehabilitation of children."
The ActiveChair and the associated PLAYbox technology toolkit (made by SMARTlab/BBC/UCD et al) have been installed and tested in both hospital and research centres worldwide, but this is the first full gameplay installation using the integrated system. The TRUST game system will go on trial next in Singapore with child patients.
Interest in the development of the NTU-UAL collaboration on the current version of the TRUST game was healthy. In developing the system, SMARTlab team members worked with young people at the KK Children's and Women's Hospital and built a gameworld inhabited by creatures and characters inspired by the youngsters. BBC R&D also seconded a senior engineer- Dr Marc Price- to the project to develop the game engine and help in the hardware and software interface. UCD shared expertise in haptics and rights to make a new version of the ActiveChair especially for children here in Singapore.
The 13-member team from NTU GameLAB and SMARTLab, UK, took about four months from January 2005 to complete the project. The project is owned and run by the TRUST Project based at SMARTlab in the UK, and linked to the Children's Health Fund and SafeSpaces.net (two not for profits in the USA). TRUST and its partners seek to support projects for the rehabilitation of children.
The official launch of the results of the NTU-UAL TRUST collaboration will take place on 23 April 2005 with a simultaneous live demonstration at 6pm at NTU in Singapore, and at 11am in Dublin. During the demonstration, a patient in Dublin and another in Singapore will demonstrate the capabilities of the system.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that can prove fatal if left untreated. It can occur in a mole or in “normal” skin and is becoming increasingly common amongst both young and old.
Why does melanoma occur?
Melanoma develops from melanocytes (skin cells that produce the melanin pigment). After spending time in the sun, melanocytes produce melanin in a bid to offer protection against the damage. If too much melanin is produced, melanocytes can become cancerous. This can occur in an existing mole, but it is not uncommon for melanoma to present itself in a new mole.
Risks factors for melanoma include:
• Exposure to both natural and artificial UV light through sunlight and tanning beds
• Having a susceptible skin type (most notably, a combination of pale skin, fair/red hair, blue eyes and freckles)
• Previous cases of sunburn
• Having lots of moles on the body (especially “atypical” moles)
• A family history of melanoma
The likelihood of developing melanoma increases with age due to the fact that more time has been spent in the sun but it is becoming more common amongst younger people. What are the symptoms of melanoma? If you notice that an existing mole has altered in size, shape or appearance, get it checked out as this could indicate melanoma. In particular, seek medical advice if a mole becomes larger, changes in color or texture or develops an irregular appearance. Any growth that repeatedly bleeds, itches or scabs/crusts over or is painful should be checked out too.
For men, melanoma commonly crops up on the chest, neck and head while for women, melanoma often occurs in the lower leg area. However, as melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, it is wise to check all existing moles regularly and keep a close eye on any new ones that may occur.
How can melanoma be prevented?
As coming into contact with ultraviolet (UV) rays is a prominent cause of melanoma, limiting exposure to the sun is one of the best ways to protect against melanoma. This applies to tanning beds as well as natural sunlight. There are many practical tips to avoid melanomas, the Dermatend Advisor provides much useful information about skin moles amd melanomas. You can visit the website here Melanoma
How is melanoma diagnosed?
If a mole looks even slightly suspicious, it is better to err on the side of caution and get it checked out just in case it does in fact show signs of being cancerous. If your doctor believes that the growth might be cancerous, a referral to a dermatologist should follow. He or she may request a biopsy so that the growth can be tested by a pathologist. If the growth is confirmed as melanoma, “staging” will be carried out to determine the thickness of the tumor, whether or not it is ulcerated and how far it may have spread. The latter may also be determined through Sentinel Lymph Node (SLN) biopsy. Other methods of “staging” can include blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, chest x-rays and PET scans.
How can melanoma be treated?
If melanoma is diagnosed early enough, there is an excellent chance of full recovery as it has not had the opportunity to spread to other areas of the body. Once it has started to spread, treatment is more challenging and it is more likely to prove fatal. Treatment usually involves having the growth removed and this may be all that is necessary for melanoma that has been caught early. If some of the lymph nodes have been affected, they may also be removed. Treatment for more advanced melanoma may also involve chemotherapy and radiation therapy.