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ATHYNOS: Helping Children with Dyspraxia
Through an Augmented Reality Serious Game
Computer Science Faculty
San Marcos National University
Informatics and Electronic Faculty
Polytechnic School of Chimborazo
Informatics and Electronic Faculty
Polytechnic School of Chimborazo
Informatics and Electronic Faculty
Polytechnic School of Chimborazo
L. Miriam Avila
Business & Management Faculty
Polytechnic School of Chimborazo
Luis A. Rivera
Mathematical Sciences Laboratory
State University of North Fluminense
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Abstract—Emerging technologies and ICT have changed the
lifestyle of society, all scientific areas are taking advantage of
technology to get a real development. Therapists realize the
benefits of using serious games as an assistive tool in
psychotherapy. Thus, this research examines relevant issues
regarding Dyspraxia disorders in children and presents a
comparative study between two therapies methods, one using a
manual puzzle and other using ATHYNOS, an Augmented
Reality Serious Game developed to help children with the
Dyspraxia to improve their motor skills and hand-eye
coordination through technology. The analysis of data results
showed that exist a significant difference between both methods,
proving that children playing with ATHYNOS got less time in
the activity execution and also better performance.
Keywords—serious games; augmented reality; dyspraxia;
According to World Health Organization’s International
Classification of Diseases, it exists several definitions of
learning disabilities, and some of them require the individual to
have an intelligence quotient less than 70 . These disabilities
can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization,
time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory
and attention. It is essential to be aware that learning
disabilities can affect an individual’s life beyond academics
and can impact relationships .
It is well known that each person inherits a significant
amount of genetic information from their parents and as they
grow up, their environment and experiences also shape their
characteristics and development. There are more young people
than adults with learning disabilities. Learning disabilities are
quite common. These children need additional support at
school to get the best chance to learn academic skills .
A learning disability is a consequence of a difference in the
way that a person's brain is "wired." People, children with
learning disabilities are as intelligent as their peers. But they
may have difficulty reading, spelling, writing, reasoning,
recalling and organizing information if left to figure things out
by themselves . With the appropriate support and
intervention, children with learning disabilities can succeed in
school. Not all minds think alike in the world .
Learning disabilities are very variable from one child to
another. One person could struggle with reading and spelling,
while another loves books but can’t understand math. Or
maybe another child may have difficulty understanding what
others are saying or communicating out loud. The problems are
very different, but they are all learning disabilities [4, 5]. Some
of the learning disabilities are Auditory Processing Disorder
(APD); Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Language
Processing Disorder, Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities, Visual
Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit, Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyspraxia and Executive
Functioning [2, 3].
For this specific case study, the Dyspraxia disability was
analyzed because of the effects that it produces in the attention
deficit in children of scholar age. The Dyspraxia or motor
difficulty refers to issues with movement and coordination
whether it is with fine motor skills (writing, cutting,) or gross
motor skills (jumping, running) [6-8].
Signals that a child might have a motor coordination
disability include problems with physical abilities that require
hand-eye coordination [1, 6-8]. Children can exhibit poor
balance; may appear clumsy; may frequently stumble. Also,
they show difficulty with motor planning, exhibits weakness in
the ability to organize self and belongings, shows possible
sensitivity to touch, may break things or choose toys that do
not require skilled manipulation. They have difficulty with fine
motor tasks such as coloring between the lines, cutting
accurately, putting puzzles together, or pasting neatly, irritated
by scratchy, rough, tight or heavy clothing [1, 6-8].
Nowadays, with the new Information and Communication
Technologies (ICT) and emerging technologies available in the
world, several researchers have proposed interventions through
gamified structured activities . In this sense, there has been a
significant development of therapies for different disabilities
based on educational games called as Serious Games (SG) [10,
The SG definition has shifted over time; however, the
earliest version was coined by Clark C. Abt, in the 1970 paper
entitled “Serious Games.” He says: “We are concerned with
serious games in the sense that these games have an explicit
and carefully thought out purpose and are not intended to be
played primarily for amusement.”  SG is often regarded as
promising teaching and learning tools for the 21st century [13,
One of the main arguments is that games are attractive to
nowadays students . Furthermore, a significant issue and
challenge are developing SG together with technology-
enhanced learning approaches such as Augmented Reality
(AR) . In this way, emerging technologies are a great
promise  because they motivate children with new
challenges; providing a rapid feedback, that is tailored to the
specific interests and individual needs. These Augmented
Reality Serious Games (ARSG) should be able to capture their
attention and enhances the communication process using
experimentation and simulation manipulated by physical
movements (interface) , working in real environments with
virtual elements in order to achieve the augmented effects with
An urgent need exists to plan and propose innovative
treatments using technology to help children with Dyspraxia
that adapts to the requirements through the motion-based on
the natural user interface. It could offer endless possibilities of
more natural interaction, which can recognize hand and body
gestures, making it an ideal tool to provide creativity to
therapeutic activities combined with ARSG.
So that, the primary goal of this study is to show the results
obtained after a training process with two groups of children
using an ARSG prototype called ATHYNOS. It was designed
according to proper intervention practices established by
experts in the field of Dyspraxia to improve hand-eye
coordination skills, feedback, interactivity, and problem-
solving. This prototype took advantage of the AR and natural
interface using 3D virtual environments and Kinect, this case
study helped to evaluate the effectiveness of ARSG.
Firstly, general information related to dyspraxia, serious
games and augmented reality was introduced in this paper.
Section 2 presents the ARSG design process. Section 3
describes the research methodology. At last, the article finishes
with the conclusion of the study.
II. ATHYNOS DESIGN PROCESS
For this research work, four stages were considered
(analysis, design, development, and evaluation) on the software
lifecycle . The analysis phase comprises the study of the
requirements, taking into account the scenarios, pedagogical
aspects, learning contents and playful [20, 21]. This process
determines a set of stages whose primary objective is to
identify the different elements of the production of the SG. In
this phase several criteria were establishing :
• Goal for the game
• Fun add-ons (sounds, video, 3D effect, etc.)
• Rewards (for game progress and game success)
• Desirable child-centered content
• Randomness to provide surprise
Concerning learning activities, five criteria were chosen:
• Organization of the learning material
• Formative feedback on learning
• Appropriate language (even as images)
• Consistency of learning presentation
• Interactivity (to increase engagement)
In the design phase, digital resources necessary for the
creation of the SG must be created, including 2D and 3D
illustrations, structured objects, sounds and music that reflect
the analysis specifications. Also, it defined the interrelation
between educational content and training . This stage
emphasizes the relationship of the educational objectives and
the challenges of the game, which are developed implicitly. It
was defined the rules and mechanisms of play. Kinect enables
players to control and interact, using a natural user interface
with gesture commands.
The development phase describes the tools and software
resources required to create the SG. For ATHYNOS, a desktop
platform (Microsoft Windows) was established using Unity 3D
 as a powerful gaming engine, combined with the C# high-
level programming language. It has excellent compatibility
with Unity, and you can reach the widest audience with 25+
platforms across mobile, desktop, console, TV, AR, VR and
For the graphic design, Adobe Illustrator  allowed the
imagery development (characters, props, environments), Adobe
After Effects  software was used to implement/prototype
animations and to optimize output presentation. Finally, Adobe
Premiere Pro  allowed editing professional videos. On the
other hand, audition tools like Ableton Live permitted to create
a music sequence, and Adobe Audition  was used for audio
For the creation of Augmented Reality application, the
Software Development Kit (SDK) Vuforia  was selected,
which enables that other devices consolidate the game´s
interfaces. Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0  was also used to
combine all game elements through a natural user interface. All
those tools, under an integrated development environment,
using the best programming practices.
The SG evaluation phase is complemented by two roles: the
end user and the expert, which consolidate the different aspects
that were developed in the previous steps. In this process, goal
validation, feedback, and testing technic were verified .
A. Game Characters
ATHYNOS has eight characters; each one is represented by
an avatar of identification and completes actions. A scenario
contains scenes and multimedia elements, which are part of
therapeutic challenges. It is important to mention that
characters are well-known personalities from Ecuadorian
culture (Figure 1).
Figure 1. ATHYNOS characters.
B. How to play ATHYNOS
1. The therapist explains the procedure to start the game.
2. Each child has to login into the game through an
avatar selection. There are six avatars, which
represent children from Ecuadorian regions. Each
child must choose one and then write his/her name
using a natural interface.
3. A video is shown to explain the characters present in
4. After that, a menu of scenarios is displayed, which
contents different type of therapies. There are three
levels (beginners, intermedium and advanced), the
difficulty level corresponds to the skills and
capabilities of the player.
5. The therapy showed in Figure 2 represents Shapes
scenario. The goal of this scene is to match the
character on the right side with the correct shape on
the left side. Inside of the game, a database saves
registers of time, success, and failures occurred during
the play mode.
6. Results are shown on the screen.
7. Finally, feedback sessions were planned.
Figure 2. Screenshot of Shapes scenario in ATHYNOS.
III. METHODOLOGY RESEARCH
Study participants were 40 children (20 boys and 20 girls),
(M= 50%; F=50%) divided into two groups in randomly and
independently manner to avoid possible slant in the sample
(20 children in each group). The age average is 7.3 years old
To carry out a comparison, the first group was called
Control Group (CG), under an only traditional teaching-
learning method and on the other hand, the second group,
called Experimentation Group (EG), using ATHYNOS game.
All of them are receiving therapies in public and private
centers located in Riobamba city (Ecuador). Centers’ director
received the parent´s written permission for children's
participation in this work. For this experimentation, two
specialized psychologist/therapists had been responsible for
conducting and applying intervention sessions.
Each child was invited to attend four sessions, in each
meeting a manual puzzle therapy and ATHYNOS game
prototype were used. Additionally, a random order of
children's participation was established in each session, which
lasted approximately 20 minutes. The manual puzzle therapy
was a pedagogic game for sensorimotor education, and it
consisted on to matching letters and words with figures
according to the therapist instructions.
Time of activities execution, and performance were
registered by each student, taking into account the grade scale
of the Education Ministry of Ecuador (1-10), where 1 means
the lowest grade, and 10 is the best one. See Table I.
Table I. Grades scale of the Education Ministry of Ecuador
Exceeds the learning
Master the learnings
Achieves the required learning
Is close to achieving the learning
Does not achieve the required learning
Source: Art. 193. Guide for the application of the student assessment .
At each session, the time to solve the assigned activities by
the children were recorded. With these data, the time average
of all meetings for each child was calculated. After that a
statistical analysis was made. Using the Shapiro-Wilk test, it
was possible to determine that data distribution is not normal.
That was the reason why the Wilcoxon method was used since
there was a significant difference among the time
distributions, obtaining a p-value = 6.748e-08 < 0.05 (Table
II). The comparison between time results of both therapies is
presented in Figure 3 and Figure 4.
Table II. Time statistic summary (Minutes)
Figure 3. Boxplot of results obtained by Comparison of Time
Figure 4. Exploratory analysis of Time.
A score was given for each student in each session as an
assessment of children, considering the right answers and
failures. After that, the ratings were registered, and with this
data, averages were calculated for each student, and they are
called in this work as academic performance.
So that, in an analog way, using the Shapiro-Wilk test, it
was possible to determine that distribution of the data is not
normal. That was the reason why the Wilcoxon method was
used since there was a significant difference among the grades
distribution, obtaining a p-value =0.0001077 < 0.5 (Table III).
Table III. Student Performance statistic summary (Grades scale)
The comparison between performance results of both
therapies is presented in Figure 5 and Figure 6. The statistical
analysis was made using R software in both cases with time
and academic performance.
The boxplot and the descriptive analysis of data confirm
that the execution time of children's activities is longer when
they work with manual therapy activities. Meanwhile, when
children used ATHYNOS game, there was a significant
decrease in the time used by children at the therapies. As a
result, there was an improvement in their motor level and hand-
eye coordination based on boxplot of performance. Also, it was
observed that the variability of the times obtained by children
was homogeneous in both cases, which shows that all children
have similar abilities in both methodologies.
Figure 5. Boxplot comparison of performance Distributions
Figure 6. Comparative analysis of Academic Performance between CG & EG.
The primary goal of this study was to improve children
motor skills through ATHYNOS game. It helps children to be
more engaged in physical training and improving their bodily-
kinesthetic intelligence taking into account that children are
digital natives. They had the chance to acquire a particular
pattern of thinking and be more satisfied with fine motor skills.
In the game, the difficulty level corresponds to the skills and
capabilities of the player.
The proposed research methodology regarding the times and
performance given by ATHYNOS prototype presents
statistically significant improvements at 95% confidence
concerning manual method. The children improved their
learning about hand-eye coordination, bilateral integration, and
sequencing. The fun element is one of the essential
characteristics of the game. Also, ATHYNOS provide
feedback on player achievements and let know what activities
are doing successfully. It is relevant since it motivates children
to meet the challenges set in the game.
ATHYNOS Serious Game can be used as a good alternative
in the age of the Information and Communication Technologies
(ICT) and emerging technologies. Several studies have
proposed interventions of therapies for different disabilities
based on emerging technologies (AR) using natural user
For future work, authors consider improving the game
integrating new levels and activities. In addition, it is required
to test ATHYNOS with more children of different
experimental groups in order to validate the preliminary
results obtained in this study.
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