I’ve recently been asked to produce an easily portable demo system for the gasmask-based respiration sensors developed for breathless (which was cool, but really not that portable). We decided to do a game and hit on the idea of using the arcade classic “pong.” It’s almost instantly recognisable to most people given its venerableness, and shouldn’t need the rules explaining much. Plus, since it was originally played in homes with a dial, it only requires two dimensions of input – that makes it ideal to map to breathing like few other existing games.

Ultimately we did a little more than simply mapping in to up and out to down. We made a higher respiration rate lead to a bigger paddle, to try and stop people being too careful and just for fun made a really high breathing rate add another ball. It’s now possible to be playing the game with several balls at once – which is hectic but great fun.

Just to make it absolutely what we were measuring, a graph of each player’s breathing is drawn on the screen – strictly it’s a map of paddle motion which is not quite the same thing, but we tried both and this looked better.

It’s written in pygame, which is a really nice library for doing such things and something I can see myself making a lot more use of over the coming months/years.


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