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Novel approaches are needed to reduce the high rates of childhood obesity in the developed world. While multifactorial in cause, a major factor is an increasingly sedentary lifestyle of children. Our research shows that a mixed reality system that is of interest to children can be a powerful motivator of healthy activity. We designed and constructed a mixed reality system that allowed children to exercise, play with, and train a virtual pet using their own physical activity as input. The health, happiness, and intelligence of each virtual pet grew as its associated child owner exercised more, reached goals, and interacted with their pet. We report results of a research study involving 61 children from a local summer camp that shows a large increase in recorded and observed activity, alongside observational evidence that the virtual pet was responsible for that change. These results, and the ease at which the system integrated into the camp environment, demonstrate the practical potential to impact the exercise behaviors of children with mixed reality.
Positron emission tomography, Games, Monitoring, Pediatrics, Obesity, Avatars

K. Johnsen et al., "Mixed Reality Virtual Pets to Reduce Childhood Obesity," in IEEE Transactions on Visualization & Computer Graphics, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 523-530, 2014.
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