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Interview with Jorge Silva, AIBICOM developer

Tera Kirk's picture

 Jorge Silva, the man who designed AIBICOM’s algorithm.Many mainstream games are inaccessible to players who use a single button or switch. Game developers can have a hard time adapting their four-, eight-, twelve-button twitch masterpiece to a one-button interface. AIBICOM (asynchronous interpreter of binary commands) is a one-switch interface different from most others; instead of pushing a button to make an application do something, users only push a button when the program does something they don’t want it to do. With the speed and complex controls AIBICOM makes available to one-switch users, it could be very useful in making games accessible. I’ve written a bit about AIBICOM before; now let’s talk with Jorge Silva, the man who designed AIBICOM’s algorithm.

You describe yourself as a disability engineer. How did you get involved in making products for people with disabilities?

I only know of one other person that calls himself a disability engineer: Prof. James A. Boyless. I adopted the term after visiting his site because I've always thought the concept of "Rehabilitation" is flawed or incomplete at best. To me, disability is a natural consequence of human diversity and should always be an essential part of our society, but rehabilitation and other dominant medical perspectives go the other way. I think that the apparent "disadvantages" of disability only exist in an inaccessible world, so the day the world becomes accessible, it won't matter any more whether we are temporally-able or disabled. That is what got me involved in this field. I just want to give temporarily-able people a chance to realize what we are all missing out on, just by not making things accessible.

In a study of people who didn't normally use one switch interfaces, many participants found AIBICOM more confusing and unpredictable than a 4-directional keypad, even when their performance with each was about the same. Have single-switch users expressed similar frustrations with AIBICOM?

The closest we have gotten to gathering specific reactions from single-switch users has been through a couple of people with mild physical impairments who completed our experimental tests, and from the insights of Michael Dzura, one of our research collaborators who relies on switches and a mouth stick to interact with his environment. The reviews were mixed with a positive balance. AIBICOM is definitely not a straight forward way to control something, however, it seems that the more severe the physical impairments are, the more people are willing to tolerate AIBICOM's drawbacks in exchange for the unprecedented benefits. As an example, Michael used our AIBICOM-based doodling program to make a drawing of Sponge Bob, one of his favorite cartoon characters. It took him about 20 minutes to finish the drawing and he definitely got tired, but the satisfaction of having drawn it himself, made it all worth it for him. Michael has also been helping me enhance the library, so there is still lots of space for improvements. Your readers can take a look at Michael's drawing on the AIBICOM paper I published, which is available on-line, for free, from the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation's website.

What are your plans for AIBICOM in the future?

I have no specific plans for the moment, but I am always willing to work with others in order to make anything accessible whether we use AIBICOM or not. This is why AIBICOM, like the rest of my work, is open source, so people other than myself can contribute new and improved solutions and applications. For example, Dr. Milos Popovic at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute is using AIBICOM to create simple but powerful brain-computer interfaces. He thinks AIBICOM has a lot of potential and even contributed a couple of enhancements.

Another thing I've been wanting to do for a while but haven't had the time to finish, is incorporating AIBICOM into the open-source 3D-game Neverball. I used this game originally for my experimental tests and when I told Robert Kooima, the game's creator, about the possibility of making it accessible, he got really excited, so maybe some of your readers could help me hack around the code and make it finally happen!

Are you working on any other projects besides AIBICOM?

At the moment I am coordinating a student engagement project at the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto This project, called SCYP, is focused on increasing the accessibility of mobile devices. The students and I are working on tons of really interesting projects like an indoor positioning system, a head-tracking interface using the Wiimote, and accessible ways to control mobile phones and other appliances. I am also a volunteer with the Tetra Society of North America where I get to do really cool adaptations for people with all sorts of disabilities.

Is there anything else you would like to say that I didn't ask about?

Not really... thanks for asking though!!

Category Tags
Platform(s): PC  
Articles: Interviews   Columns  
Topic(s): Gaming with Disabilities  

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I think....

But what about those in between the 12 and 1 control scheme?

I think the game industry has completely missed making games more controllable through full mapping configuration.

I am a 30 something learning disabled(primarily reading/writing and how brain sorts information) gamer and fine console controls to be highly unintuitive because devs are too rushed to think about their cookie cutter controls are not for everyone.(when it takes you a month after you beat a FPS on a console to enjoy it something is very wrong...)

First off we need standardization in control and options, all games or consoles must have full button mapping capability its so simple its been forgotten.

Options fall into tweaking gameplay (more lives,ammo,more speed, gravity, speed/time control, volume, difficulty, health) and yes I know this is more outlandish but cheating has become a dirty word in gaming now adays and without a healthy single player cheating device industry for the days to come I fear all games will be simply unfun to play.

I find games are getting more boring the more they try to make something realistic with quirky or unfinished balances and love tweaking a game as so its fun to play, fun is something the industry has long forgotten to make generic mainstream goolouse without the goo....

And then this brings me back to controllers made for people with disablites if you have more customizable games you can make control systems that can make use of the game far easier.
Most games can be playable in a sense with a stick and a button, hell add voice recognition and you can toggle a menu, if you can tense up parts of the body use muscle pads(kinda like cardio pads to monitor the heart only the tension in the muscle sets it off, or if the area can physically contort connections within the pad go off) can act as a button, breath can act as a button, special glasses that minotier the eyes for certain blinks and stairs.

Open up the world of gaming to the disabled as much as you can, hell even working with the industry to get some of its title opened up to voluntary staff of an institute or whatnot and recode the control interface to allow for specialized play and between non profits and good PR this is something that could be done if handled right.

This of coarse wont happen over night it takes time and effort, but if you pool resources and stroke the corporate ego just right it can be done.

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