Gaming with Disabilities
By Tera Kirk on October 30, 2008 - 3:57pm.
John LeSieur's six-year-old grandson Zackary was overwhelmed by computers: too many options, too many colors, too much stuff in general to keep track of. Zachary has autism, and LeSieur tried to find a web browser that would be less confusing. When he couldn't find such a browser for Zackary, he made one.
By Tera Kirk on October 28, 2008 - 4:41pm.
Via Second Life for the Visually Impaired
The Novint Falcon may look like a space helmet with a robot arm sticking out of it, but it's really a kind of joystick that lets players "feel" the games they're playing: "When you hold the Falcon’s detachable Grip and move your cursor to interact with a virtual object, environment, or character, motors in the device turn on and are updated approximately 1000 times a second, letting you feel texture, shape, weight, dimension, and dynamics."
Anyone who's played Nintendo 64 games with the Rumble Pack or turned on the rumble feature in their PS2 DualShock controller has some idea of how force-feedback or haptic technology can influence gaming, but the Falcon takes this technology to a whole new level:
Hold the Falcon's interchangeable Grip and feel a character's actions, instead of controlling a game with mouse-clicks and meters. Feel the weight of a basketball as you shoot it towards a hoop-the momentum and impact as you swing a virtual golf club and strike a ball-the recoil of a weapon-or the physical characteristics of virtual objects and environments.
By Tera Kirk on October 27, 2008 - 2:16pm.
On August 22, 2008, University of Washington Electrical Engineering Ph.D candidate Jon Malkin spoke about the Vocal Joystick (VJ) project at the Gnomedex 8.0 tech conference:
By Tera Kirk on October 24, 2008 - 2:38pm.
At the Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham, England, students study in both British Sign Language (BSL) and English. According to a Futurelab article, they communicate in these two very different languages with the help of PlayStation Portables.
Last year, the school borrowed some units from the Birmingham East City Learning Centre; the deputy head thought that, among other things, the PSP would be good for teaching sign language to the students' hearing siblings. For instance, an instructor could make sign language videos for the kids to play on their systems, and the kids could practice by signing into their PSPs' integrated video cameras. The PSP has also become a portable notebook for the school's pupils. BSL and English have completely different grammars and sentence structures, and written English is still focused on how words sound. (For a more in-depth analysis of the problems deaf people can have with written English, see What Really Matters in the Early Literacy Development of Deaf Children).
What does the Sony PSP have to do with English literacy? Teachers giving writing assignments can ask students to do a draft of their work by making a video in sign with their PSPs' cameras; then, when they bring their PSPs back to school, they can work on English translation with the teacher's help. As Longwill's deputy head Allison Carter says, "[English writing is] becoming much more manageable for the children and you’re getting a much higher quality of work because they can reflect in their first language." To see more about how Longwill is using technology in the classroom, including images of PSPs in action, see Nathan Monk's Design Diary.
In related (if old) news, you can turn your PSP into a portable Teletype (TTY) device.
By Tera Kirk on October 23, 2008 - 3:26pm.
According to an article in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill magazine Endeavors ("Fair Games"), UNC computer science students are designing games for players with low vision. The games were field tested at "Maze Day," when 70 kids with visual impairments came from all around North Carolina to play:
The game [Move to the Music] gives [the blind player] audio feedback on her performance: a handclap when she steps in time to the beat, an occasional buzzer when she’s off rhythm. Six-inch-wide pieces of carpet cover the centers of the squares on the pad, telling her feet where to step.
Other students used information readily available on the internet to write programs that can communicate with Nintendo’s Wii controller, called the Wii Remote or 'Wiimote.' Given the task of making a sports game, one group picked a sport that would be familiar to their target audience: beep ball. The real-life game is based on baseball and played by many blind kids and adults, using a softball that beeps and bases that make buzzing sounds. The game the students created combines verbal cues such as 'Ready!' 'Pitch!' and 'Strike!' with simple figures that seem to zoom closer to the player as they run across a green field. The player swings the Wiimote to hit the ball, then shakes the controller back and forth to run toward a base.
The games are playable on common, inexpensive hardware, and are open source; they can be improved or adapted as necessary.
By Tera Kirk on October 22, 2008 - 10:34pm.
There's been a lot of disability-related goodness going on at Ubisoft lately. After taking action against an ableist slur in MindQuiz last year, the publisher announced this past September that all its games developed in-house will be subtitled. Also, Ubisoft is partnering with organization Handicap International for a campaign called Ability Together. This campaign raises awareness of the problems disabled people face, particularly those in developing countries. And it includes Handigo The Game, a series of free minigames starring characters with different impairments: one is blind, one uses a wheelchair and one has learning difficulties.
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