Monstas are interactive exercise toys for children with Juvenile Arthritis. Arthritis is a painful disease that attacks the joints; it is most common in the joints of the hands. Arthritis has no cure, but it can be taken into remission through constant exercise. However, exercise does not occur because it is painful and seen as a chore. By not exercising the arthritis is effectively getting worse.
Monstas helps children heal by teaching them how to exercise correctly using a game on the iPad with exercise tools that are friendly and soft. Monstas consists of three tools - each targeting a different joint group of the hand: wrist, knuckles and mid-finger joints. Each tool is squeezed on top of the iPad to create different game movements, the iPad is able to recognize the tool through simple conduction and indicate that the exercise was achieved.
Monstas is unique because nothing in the market fulfills the needs of children with arthritis. In fact, there is very little created for them in the current market, most exercise tools are made for adult hands, not for children's hands. Even regular toys cannot be used by children with arthritis for they are too small for their swollen fingers. Monstas is able to be both a fun toy and an exercise device. Children play while getting healthier.
Shirley Rodriguez, Art Center College of Design
Monstas uses a tablet as its main gaming platform, so the game can demonstrate through animations and characters how to properly exercise and play with the toys. Over half of households with young children have a tablet, allowing Monstas to reach a large number of families.
The way Monstas works is quite simple and can be replicated with any conductive material. The toy has at least two conductive silicone parts, one on the inside and one on the outside. For the tablet to recognize the device, the two conductive parts must touch, completing the electrical circuit. The aesthetics of the tools represent how to use them; through prototyping I found that this is especially important for younger children who must see to understand. Children can see the solid colors outside and a solid color inside, and throughout the game they begin to understand that the colors must touch for the circuit to complete.
The game provides feedback to the child on how to accurately perform each exercise. To ensure that movement is done correctly, the tools only afford one hand position and focus on one joint group.
Monstas is a fun game that helps children forget they have a disease and that they are actually exercising their hands. The tools can be played with or without the iPad, and the iPad game still provides basic hand exercises without the tools.
Monstas is not only a game, it is also a support network. A child is able to play with another child who is also affected by arthritis, a valuable opportunity as the number of children suffering from the disease is relatively low and they are dispersed throughout the country. This is a value also for parents who might need the support of other mothers and fathers. The lifecycle of the tools also comes in play through the app, as parents can trade tools with other families for more rigid ones once their child is able to easily use the more flexible tool.