For the past two years, Litesprite has been building games and a platform to help people deal with mental health problems such as too much stress. A lot of games profess to do that, but Lifesprite’s founder Swatee Surve is seeking full approval as a government and doctor-approved medical treatment.
Running on a smartphone, Litesprite’s Sinasprite game monitors the behavior and health of players by combining input from biosensors, wearables, and mobile devices. It captures the patient data and provides it to clinicians so they can see what strategies are working and when, Surve said in an interview with GamesBeat. The game could become very useful, considering 40 million Americans suffer from too much stress, anxiety, or depression.
The idea of using games for health has a lot of company. Jane McGonigal, a famous game designer and speaker, has a new book called Superbetter that chronicles her efforts to improve the lives of people by challenging them with games.
The first game, Sinasprite, uses a Fox character named Socks to go on journeys through an animated world that are relaxing or soothing. You can create paintings using a touchscreen brush and do other things that help keep Socks balanced and healthy in a quest to become a zen master. Lifesprite’s patent-pending platform aims to help people deal with stress relief and suicide prevention. The game and its platform are certified as a “class II medical device.”
“We see this being prescribed some day,” said Surve, founder and chief executive of Litesprite. “We think that’s pretty cool. We are getting really good results so far.”
The company has received angel funding as well as grants from South by Southwest, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Singularity University, and the Livestrong Foundation. It also has had in-kind support from the U.S. Army. The company ran a public beta and active pilot with the U.S. Army. Litesprite also participated in the Washington Interactive Network’s gaming accelerator, dubbed Reactor, in Seattle. The game’s results show strong engagement and improvements in anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms, and coping skills, Surve said.
“We’re looking for funding to broaden operations and increase the features,” Surve said.
The company has eight employees. It has paying customers in the military and in private health clinics, including a clinic in Arizona. The company is targeting insurance firms, clinics, and employers.
“Sometimes Call of Duty is what you really want,” said Surve. “It depends on the situation. Other times, it’s zoning out and meditating. Now players can clinicians can see what works for them. Maybe you can figure out strategies like how you need to go for a walk right now. We can predict with enough data that you should go for another walk.”
Over time, the information could become a lot more useful. Medical providers and insurance companies can look at the aggregate, anonymized data and try to diagnose the conditions for suicide risk, which could prompt more intervention.
In the meantime, health clinics can efficiently monitor patients in-between visits, customize treatment strategies, and communicate directly with individuals through the Litesprite app.
People can add user-generated content to the game. Clinicians can provide positive feedback and incentivize patients to do better. The clinicians can develop predictive models and send alerts to patients, and measure health outcomes, patient engagement, adherence to the treatment, and overall health. Sinasprite targets adults ages 25 to 50.
“We’re trying to stay true to what gaming is about through an emphasis on character,” Surve said. “Everybody loves Socks.”