STUART Smith thinks there is black magic in video games.
And the University of Tasmania associate professor wants to harness that voodoo for what seems an impossible task.
As director of the UTAS Healthy Research Centre, Dr Smith is focused on how technology can be used to prevent obesity and chronic disease.
Dr Smith said the engaging, compelling and often addictive nature of video games could be used to promote regular exercise.
"Society is facing a growing health burden due to an ageing population ... and there will also be a rise in chronic disease because people haven't been engaging in healthy lifestyles," Dr Smith said.
"We need to explore ways we can engage people in sustained physical activity, and that also means adopting healthy lifestyles and eating better."
But Dr Smith said it would be a challenge getting people interested in games that targeted health and fitness, and getting the elderly interested in video games at all.
"It's a bit of an intellectual challenge, and a logistic challenge, to take these technologies that younger people are very familiar with, and make them appropriate for an older population," he said.
"And how do we get people over short-term engagement, where maybe for a couple of weeks or a month they might change their behaviour, but not over a lifetime?
"People are happy to spend money on downloading apps for phones or buying CDs or purchasing TV content, so there might be something in the consumer mindset we need to tap."
Dr Smith said he was also using the Microsoft Kinect for Windows gaming device to develop programs aiding the rehabilitation of stroke victims and the injured, as well as reducing the risk of falls in the elderly.
"Most rehabilitation tasks are inherently very boring. If you want people to complete exercises repeatedly, and they're not getting any feedback from the task, it's not motivating, people just don't do it," Dr Smith said.
"By using video games, we can acquire information about a person's state of health to feed back to them how they're doing, and we can also relate it to a remote clinician.
"This is important because in a state like Tasmania, where there is such a small population over a relatively large landmass, there can be people living in communities where there are no physiotherapists, occupational therapists, or neurologists."firstname.lastname@example.org