Wake up: Test uses game apps to keep people alert

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Science Cafe for adults at Port Discover on Thursday will explore how mobile game apps can be used to help security guards and other people with redundant jobs stay alert and awake.


By Cindy Beamon
Albemarle Life Editor

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Playing games on a cell phone while on the job is not always a bad thing.

At least that's what Malcolm D'costa, a computer science assistant professor at Elizabeth City State University, concluded in his doctoral studies.

He researched to see if simple and fun games can help people, like security guards, stay alert when things are uneventful. Watching screens or standing watch for hours when nothing happens, can lull people into falling asleep or inattentiveness, D'costa explained.

He tested certain mobile apps to see if they could help improve job performance and the workers' enjoyment of their duties. The trick was to find games that were engaging but not too demanding of the workers' attention, he said.

D'costa will be speaker at Port Discover's Science Cafe for adults on Thursday to explain how the game apps were created and how workers responded. D'costa conducted the research for his doctorate at University of Houston before he was hired by Elizabeth City State Unviersity about a year and a half ago. D'costa said research like his could lead to the use of game apps in the workplace.

One of the apps, took a screen shot that a "security guard" (actually a student volunteer) was monitoring and turned it into a jigsaw. To solve the puzzle, the guard grabbed game pieces from other screens that the guard was supposed to be watching.

Another app caused a bee to fly across the video monitor. The guard had to tilt his iPhone or another mobile device to situate the bee within crosshairs so he could swat the bug by tapping his phone.

D'costa said part of the research involved monitoring how well the "security guard" was able to spot simulated crimes on the camera shots, such as someone stealing a bookbag, while they played or did not play the games.

He also kept track of physical signs that usually signal a person's disinterest. For example, if a person's blood flow, heart rate and breathing slowed, it probably indicated the person was getting sleepy.

What's happening?

What: Science Cafe

Topic: Using Game Apps for Some Good

Speaker: Malcolm D'costa, assistant professor Elizabeth City State University

Where: Port Discover STEM lab, 611 E. Main St.

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Cost: Free