Visitor from Norway to Investigate the Impact of Video Games

Prof. Alf Inge WangFrom August 2018 through July 2019, ISR is hosting Prof. Alf Inge Wang, on invitation by his ISR faculty host Prof. Richard Taylor. Wang is a professor in game technology at the Department of Computer Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim Norway. At his university in Norway he teaches programming, software architecture and game development, conducts research in software engineering and game technology, and advises and launches startups. His most successful project is Kahoot! which is a game-based learning platform with over 70 million monthly active users across the world. In the US, half of K-12 teachers use Kahoot! in their teaching. The idea behind Kahoot! is to transform the classroom into a gameshow where the teacher is the gameshow host and the students are the participants using their own mobile devices.

Playing PlayPulse. Photo: PlayPulse AS.Wang is also the co-founder of another start-up named PlayPulse, where the goal is to provide a fun way of doing physical exercise for those who do not like traditional physical training. PlayPulse is a new gaming platform where exercise bikes equipped with special-designed sensors and game controllers are used to play engaging multiplayer games. When playing a PlayPulse game, the players will execute high-intensitive interval training resulting in a high pulse without realizing it (stealth training). PlayPulse is currently used in gyms, at a hospital, at a university, and at high schools in Scandinavia.

Another important project Wang has been involved in is EduApp4Syria, where Syrian refugee children get the opportunity to learn their mother-tongue through fun and educational learning games. The EduApp4Syria project was organized as an international multi-phase innovation competition where developers from across the world were invited to submit their ideas in the form of a prototype, a short YouTube video, and some required documents. The total amount of prize money was $1.7 million. Wang served as the chair of the jury and the technical coordinator of this project, which was initiated and supported directly by the Norwegian government. EduApp4Syria received 79 submissions from over 30 countries, and after an elimination process ended up with two winning games: Feed the Monster and Antura and the Letters. Both games are available for free on Google Play and App Store, and have been downloaded and used by Syrian children living in many countries. Independent studies of children playing both games have been conducted over a long period of time in refugee camps in Jordan, where the results showed significant improvement related to literacy and psychosocial well-being.

Norwegian Prime minister Erna Solberg, Foreign minister Børge Brende and Crown Princess Mette Marit with Syrian Children promoting EduApp4Syria on prime-time TV. Photo: NRK.

This is the third research visit Wang has made at ISR. Wang chose to visit UCI and ISR for several reasons. Firstly, he wanted to continue collaboration with Prof. Walt Scacchi, where the focus this time will be on entrepreneurship and applying game technology in areas such as learning and physical training. Secondly, UCI has many strong research groups and excellent faculty in areas that perfectly match Wang’s research areas, such as software engineering, software architecture, learning technology, game-based learning, game technology, and entrepreneurship. Thirdly, Professor Wang, his wife and youngest daughter wanted to come back to the nice living environment in Southern California and to reconnect with good friends.

While at UCI, Wang plans to investigate the impact of video games and video games research, and study and analyze the process of going from an idea for using game technology, through developing prototypes, to developing a product and establishing a start-up company based on the initial idea. One example of his current work is analysis research conducted on the game Pokémon Go and the impact of this game. Further, Wang plans to analyze data from existing projects, as well as explore ideas for new research and products. Wang will also give presentations about his research at various venues such as at high schools, conferences, workshops, colleges and universities. Wang’s research visit at ISR is supported by a grant from the Fulbright Scholar Program.

To learn more about Prof. Wang’s research, visit his website: 

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