TV Drama to Connect Women to Online Health

In this week's Cybershake, we talk with actor Ally Sheedy about playing a role which she hopes will inspire millions of women to tune in and log on to the Net. Plus, we note how one company is feeling out old video games.

An Online Life Line for Women's Health

On Thursday, Oxygen Media, a 24-hour cable TV network, debuted Life on the Line, an original drama which the network hopes will send women to another media outlet: the Net.

Based on a true story, the televised drama featured actor Ally Sheedy as Chris McHugh, a mother of two, who waged a courageous battle against inflammatory breast cancer, a rare, and fast moving disease.

In preparation for the role, Sheedy says she learned how courageous and resourceful McHugh was when faced with a deadly illness which doctors had predicted would leave her with only 18-months left to live.

"McHugh turned to the Internet to find different doctors, different courses of treatment, speak to other patients, basically to empower herself and be able to take charge of her own health care and she extended her life," says Sheedy. "She lived for six years." (McHugh passed away earlier this year.)

And to encourage more women to become more proactive in their own health care, Oxygen has collaborated with several partners to establish a special online resource center geared specifically toward female medical issues.

At www.LifeontheLine.WebMD.com, visitors can learn more about treatments for illnesses such breast cancer, compare their level of medical care to broader norms, and find doctors and hospitals that suit their individual needs.

"The lesson we can learn from Chris McHugh's courageous fight against cancer is the importance of being an active patient," said Zoë Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, one of the partners in the Web project.

And while Sheedy is proud of her part in telling the McHugh story, she says that the great possible outcome of her work will be if more women log on, rather than just tune out.

"I hope women see it, and find out through the Internet, go on to that Web site and extend their life by six years because they are able to find out about a different course of treatment," she says. "That information is out there and you can find it and people are putting it together so that you don't get lost in our medical system and you're not passive about your own health care.

— Bill Diehl, ABCNEWS

See It, Hear It, Do It, Feel It

How to breathe life into old computer games? Rather than just see and hear the action, Immersion in San Jose, Calif., wants you to feel it, too.

The company has developed a new software utility for gamers called TouchWare Gaming. It's designed to work with special, so-called "force-feedback" joysticks — controlling devices that use tiny vibrating motors to give players a literal feel for a game.

"What TouchWare Gaming does is use sophisticated algorithms to analyze the sound and then try to match it up with some kind of force feedback effect," says Dean Chang, chief technology officer with Immersion. "So when you hear the light saber power on, you can actually feel the force in your hand as well."

Force feedback gaming isn't entirely new. Owners of Sony's PlayStation 2 or Microsoft's XBox game systems have had their pick of such reactive games.

But, says Chang: "One of the problems is that of the say like 5,000 PC games that have come out over the past few years, only about 300 or so have [force feedback] technology in them."

That's one of the reasons why the company developed the TouchWare software. Since it's designed to work with a game's sound, there's no tricky reprogramming that needs to be done to existing video games.

Gamers can try it out by downloading a free test version of TouchWare Gaming from the company's Web site: Immersion.com.

— Michael Barr, ABCNEWS

Cybershake is produced for ABCNEWS Radio by Andrea J. Smith.

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