Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gaming for the Differently-abled

Invention of computers has changed the way how we play games!!! One we can play football on a computer screen using a joystick and the movements in the game have become pretty similar to the real ones! Computer games are often entertaining and sometimes educational. 

Though there are physical limitations for the people with neurodegenerative diseases, it will be highly possible for them to involve in a video gaming experience! However, specially made equipment may require giving them an equal experience as other users. 

Surprisingly, there is highly plausible research work has been done on this front and there are interesting devices made for this purpose... I am quoting a video by SpecialEffect movement to highlight the various technologies available for the differently-abled.

These appliances most of the time exploit the user's ability to make subtle movements with hands or head or even eye. Brain computer interfaces are also used in some scenarios but it is difficult to see concrete work using such devices in gaming yet. I will outline some projects I came across.

Charity organization devoted to enhance communications of disabled people using latest technology. As they say: "Our mission is to enable anyone, whatever their disability, to enjoy video games and leisure technology."

Joysticks that are customized for low pressure pushes and pulls, tracking of eye gaze and hand movements, joysticks which are controlled using chin movement. As an example, in the following video a boy controls a professional soccer video game easily by modified joysticks and buttons behind his head! Next video shows how to configure these buttons and joystick using simple software and hardware applications.
There is a bunch of such videos on their YouTube channel.

It seems that with few modifications available gaming devices like Nintendo Wii, PS3 and XBox360 can be engineered to be used effectively by a disabled person. Carl Thompson in his inspirational blog points out how he has managed to configure a Nintendo Wii Nunchuk to suit his abilities.This is a simple wooden bar attached to the device - and It Works!!!
Is another charity organization which promotes the idea of accessible video games for the differently-abled. They introduce the concept called "Includification" where they outline guidelines for developers to make games accessible for the differently-abled. They encourage developers to modify their code where a differently-abled person can play the game as equally as a typical gamer.

I have been able to contact the Editor-in-Chief of the AbleGamers foundation - Steve Spohn and will be able to have a Skype chat in the next week. I am planning to get more information on the available devices for the people with disabilities and what are the most suitable games for them. Hope that this interview will enlighten me on this path!!!

Caleb Karft in his interesting blog post describes a controller he has designed for a video game using simple switches and a joystick. The user is able to use a 'lapboard' which is a simple sticky board to position these controllers in convenient location on the board and then keep it on the lap to play the game. He provides and explanation of his work and ideas for further improvement in this video.

Well... It is quite clear that gaming for the differently-abled is a widely discussed topic nowadays. I am hoping to get more concrete information through the interview with Steve. Looking forward!!!

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