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Clean teeth with BrushUP VR

Meet Budd, he is a friendly character who needs help cleaning his gunky teeth and we get to help in Virtual Reality.

Back in the days, and I'm not that old, Barbara my dentist would pull out a giant mouth full of plastic teeth and a huge scary dirty toothbrush in order to teach me how to brush my teeth, not enticing at all right? Being able to play while we learn allows us to embed that acquired knowledge more efficiently than if we feel forced to learn it by the use of repetition.

Brushing my teeth always felt like a huge chore, I was aware of the dangers of the sugar bugs but as soon as I would hear my mom's words: Go brush your teeth

I knew I would do a horrible job because I really didn't want to do it.

Of course, I grew out of that phase, especially when I started being conscious about self-image but that is something I'm trying to lessen in my daughters' lives.

With the use of VR I see a lot of potential especially in Education, learning will be the by-product of every immersive and fun experience. In my opinion, this is where Tech becomes an important teaching tool. On the other hand, I'm very interested in learning more about how VR will affect our kid's health and how can I moderate the use of it without excluding my children from the inevitable future they'll live in.

Brush Up VR is a simple and exciting Toothbrushing challenge. Find Budd's toothbrush. Find Budd. Brush his gunky teeth. Once you start, you have 60 seconds to get all the gunk! When you play Brush Up VR, you are inside Budd's bathroom. The game is all around you. You are the hero of a life-sized cartoon world, and Budd needs you!- GamesThatWork

What worked for me:

  • Very engaging experience and you can even get a small workout out of it.

  • My kids were more excited to brush their teeth after playing with Brush up VR.

  • The music speeds up as you are running out of time and that makes you work harder.

  • It's only $0.99 for the early access version, I'm looking forward to trying the full version.

  • My kids learned that brushing their teeth fast doesn't necessarily mean getting the job properly done.

What didn't work:

  • My girls were a little afraid of Budd at the beginning, they said he had a scary face but once my oldest got to know the game, she had a blast playing. It would be great if she could also learn about oral health as she plays this game.

  • 60 seconds was too short.

  • It works only for the Oculus & HTC vive, which is great for graphics but I feel that a mobile version will have a better outreach for an educational tool such as this one.


Interview to GamesThatWork

MA: What's the mission behind Brush Up VR?

GTW: GamesThatWork's goal is to effect change through gaming. Budd's mission is to improve children's dental health. Tooth decay is currently the second biggest childhood epidemic in the US (right after obesity) and can be mitigated by proper brushing, which can be a difficult skill to teach. In the earliest stages of Brush Up, kids used a Nintendo Wiimote with an attached toothbrush to brush along with Budd. They actually brushed their own teeth, as the game gave live feedback using the sensors in the Wiimote.

The National Institutes of Health funded a study for this early version of the game which demonstrated significant improvement in brushing behavior. This evolved into the currently available mobile game, Brush Up, which lets kids brush along with Budd without any special toothbrush hardware and can be played on a tablet or phone. Budd doesn't just time the child. He acts as a mentor, showing proper brushing technique, and guiding kids in brushing all the surfaces of their teeth, not just the ones they can see. Brush Up for mobile is available on both iTunes and Google Play, and soon on Amazon.

Brush Up VR was inspired by the mobile game. Ultimately, Budd's mission in Brush Up VR is similar, but VR is a very different experience. Brushing your own teeth along with Budd in VR is currently impractical. We adapted the game into an experience that worked for VR. It had to be fun. With Brush Up VR we wanted players to interact with and change the world they were in while experiencing just how challenging cleaning all the tooth surfaces can be.

MA: How young can kids start using it?

GTW: The mobile version of Brush Up was designed with children as the intended audience. We recommend it for kids as young as five, as this is when kids are developing a lot of manual dexterity. Brush Up VR was initially created for trade shows attended by adults. However, parents who enjoyed the game also brought children as young as eight to play. Brush Up VR encourages a lot of rapid movement, so children should be old enough to have developed motor control.

Children should also be mature enough to follow direction from the parents. Many VR manufacturers recommend children be at least 13 to use the hardware. Of course, parents should use their own discretion on the developmental maturity of their child and should supervise children of any age using VR.

MA: Are there any reservations about kids using VR?

GTW: There are some potential concerns with children using VR, though these can apply to adults as well. Leaving the play area (and running into things) or banging controllers together could hurt the child or could damage expensive equipment. Parents should make sure children remain inside the grid space, and not to mistreat the equipment if they get over-excited. Children might not recognize certain discomforts. Incorrect inter-pupillary eye distance can contribute eye strain. Children may require a different setting than their parents. Some headsets are heavier than others too, which can cause more discomfort to smaller people.

Anyone using VR should take regular breaks (it's easy to lose track of time while in VR!). This is one reason Brush Up VR has a shorter and more definitive play time. As with anything, moderation is important. VR is becoming very popular but is still in its infancy as a mass-market product. It is unknown if there are long-term effects. Check your manufacturer's guidelines regarding your specific device.

MA: Any benefits for adults who use Brush Up VR?

GTW: It's fun! When you're trying to beat it, it's surprisingly pretty tiring. It definitely gets the heart rate up. Because it's so physical, your friends look pretty silly playing it. Anecdotally, we have noticed that people who take real life toothbrushing habits seriously tend to do very well in the game on their first play-through.

Not only that but the areas of Budd's mouth that people are most likely to miss match the areas where children had the most trouble brushing in our NIH study.

MA: What's next for Brush Up VR?

GTW: The current Brush Up experience is very short. While we don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, we'd like to create more ways for players to progress and to experience brushing with Budd. We've discussed introducing some game mechanics to teach healthier eating habits. We'd love to incorporate more of the technique and live feedback sensors from other iterations of the game to teach proper brushing.

And in the meantime, if you're looking for something to help your kids with their toothbrushing habits, definitely check out the mobile game!

It's free to play with the option to buy more content.

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