Swan Hills seniors try out the new Obie system at the FCSS office.Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Swan Hills FCSS has a new way for seniors in the community to stay active, socialize, and have fun with Obie. Obie is an interactive gaming console with an impressive catalogue of games and activities specifically designed for seniors to promote social interaction, physical activity, and cognitive stimulation. 

For many people, the words “gaming console” automatically conjure images of teenagers with their eyes glued to a TV while they fiddle with an incomprehensible controller for hours on end. Obie is an entirely different ball game.

One of Obie’s main features is its ease of use. The system projects interactive games onto a flat surface, either the floor, a table, or even a wall. Game players then touch or contact this surface to interact with the game; no complicated controllers are required.

To discover more about the Obie system, The Grizzly Gazette contacted Duane Jacka, a subject matter expert based in Calgary, Alberta. Jacka has gained extensive experience with this console through his involvement in selling these systems and their implementation across multiple facilities. 

According to Jacka, one of the main features that sets the Obie system apart from its competitors is an array of advanced sensors that enable it to only interact with players roughly three inches above the playing surface. This may not sound like a crucial detail at first, but it completely redefines how a player can interact with the system. For example, if the game surface is projected onto a table, a player can reach their arm “through” the game board without affecting gameplay; the movement is only registered when they lower their hand to interact with the table surface. Or if the game is being projected on the floor, a player can hold their arms out to maintain balance without affecting the game as the sensors will only register what happens 3 inches above the floor’s surface.

With 50 games or apps to choose from, there’s sure to be something to suit almost everyone’s preferences. The games are easily adaptable with varying levels of difficulty to accommodate a wide range of needs and purposes. Many games are excellent for just having fun and socializing. In a more therapeutic setting, the games and available settings can be adjusted to provide optimal cognitive stimulation for patients with varying types of dementia. 

Jacka explained that some apps that might not seem to have much of a “game” type of element to them have sparked the most conversation and social interaction among the participants and facility staff. For example, he describes one particular app with tiles bearing flags from different countries. When a tile is tapped, it flips over to show a picture of a monument or landmark from that country. In practice, this simple app has led to some fascinating discussions as people have recounted their personal experiences at the displayed locations.

The system can be programmed to be entirely automated, turning on at a set time and running through a “playlist” of games before turning itself back off on a programmed schedule. The system administrator can also determine how long each game will last before switching to the next one on the list. Jacka explains that the only drawback is that the system isn’t intelligent in this regard; it will switch to the next activity according to the schedule, whether someone is still playing or not. This situation may not be welcome for someone who is just about to win at bingo.

Try Obie for yourself at the Swan Hills FCSS office every Wednesday from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM or between 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM. This is a drop-in activity, so there’s no need to register. Obie sessions work best with one to four participants for most activities.

By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 22, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Grizzly Gazette   Swan Hills, Alberta

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