Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Moving into Gaming

Kinnectimals

I want to find out how games consoles have changed since I used to play them years ago. I’m going to be looking particularly at the new ways that can be used to play games using movement.  I promised that there would be a blog on the accessibility of games consoles and here it is!

I really enjoy the feeling of playing a computer game. Although I don’t play much now – I wish I had the time to! – when I was younger, I used to play a lot of different games. Crash Bandicoot and The Legend of Zelda are two that I remember playing quite a bit at friends’ houses. I did used to need a lot of help to play them so I thought it would be interesting to see what Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have created, that is not necessarily for accessible gaming purposes – but that could be used as such to help disabled gamers..

Xbox Kinect

The Xbox Kinect is a voice and movement controlled sensor, used both to play games and to control the Xbox console itself. For example, you can use Voice Search with Bing to activate episodes of your favourite TV shows and you can use your body and your voice to control live gameplay. A game that I’d actually like to try out using the Xbox with Kinect is Kinectimals. The idea behind this game is that you ‘look after’ a wild animal. There are 20 to choose from, including a cheetah, lion, tiger or bear cub and you can ‘train’ them to do various tricks, such as ‘roll over’, ‘play dead’ or ‘fetch’. The idea is that the more you play the game, the more interaction you get with your ‘pet’, all with voice commands and movement. This game would be good for anyone who finds using a controller difficult as it does not require pressing any buttons; however, some of the movements might be difficult for some people depending on individual ability. The Xbox Kinect sounds like a great alternative to even an adapted games console controller and the fact that you can play with your voice makes it even more appealing.

PlayStation Move

The PlayStation Move works on the same premise as the Xbox Kinnect, except instead of it being a camera installed on top of your TV, it is an actual handheld device, something which could make it difficult to use for some gamers. It is compatible with the PlayStation 3. It should be noted that there is also the PlayStation Eye Camera on top of the TV and this is needed in order for the PlayStation Move to work. The controller and camera detect every movement during gameplay, and this means that there is visual feedback during play via a light within the sphere at the top of the controller.

There are features which allow direct input from one controller to another, which might be useful for some as a way to access their game of choice. The controller is fitted with advanced motion sensors which detect both fast and subtle movements. There is also vibration feedback with some movements which would supplement the audio and visual feedback very well – this might be a good feature for someone with a visual disability.

One of the games that is played with the PlayStation Move is Move Heroes. The player is in gameplay as superheroes from three different franchises who come together in order to save their respective worlds from evil. Highly sensitive movement tracking and different perspectives visually throughout gameplay give the feeling of the player actually being ‘in’ the game. Again, the fact that there is the ability for voice control and that you do not have to use a controller could be an advantage in terms of access for some and the added auditory and vibration feedback could be all the access that some gamers need. Those affected by certain mobility impairments, those who are hearing or visually impaired, and those with cognitive or learning disabilities could well benefit from these two types of hardware and the technology which goes along with them.

Nintendo’s Sensor Bar

Built into the Nintendo Wii computer games console, the Sensor Bar fits on top of your TV in order to track the movements which the player makes with the Wii controller. Before gameplay, the player adjusts the position of the Sensor Bar and also it’s sensitivity in order to ensure accurate movement within the levels of the game. I myself have used the Wii console and found it to be accessible, although because of my impaired hand/.eye co-ordination due to my lack of vision it took me a while to get used to the very specific movements which had to be adopted for the bowling that we were playing. There are many different games options for the Wii, including my personal favourite – although I have yet to play it – Disney Infinity. The idea behind the game is that you complete different levels as various Disney characters in their particular worlds, and you choose plastic game pieces to insert into the infinity gameplay set so that you can play the game. Although I wouldn’t necessarily play this now, as a child I would have loved it, and a lot of adults say they enjoy playing it too.

And Finally…

So three different games console systems can be controlled by both voice and movement. The brilliant thing about them is that it brings a whole new way of playing games that might be better for some people – so for people who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, those with certain learning or neurological disabilities and those with some specific mobility impairments. The downfall with these systems is that they are only trained to recognise very specific movements that the user makes – so for example, it would be great if the systems could be calibrated to recognise other movements that a disabled person can make.

It is brilliant that you get auditory, visual and vibratory feedback, which helps access to computer games for some; however, for people with little or no movement, this technology would not be accessible – which is a real shame. It’s also frustrating that the movements cannot be translated in gameplay to another part of your body, which would solve the problem of limited mobility gameplay for some gamers. Hopefully these new developments will mean a future where gaming becomes accessible to all without the need for those with disabilities to make their own adaptations. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Links:

Nintendo Sensor Bar: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Support/Wii/Usage/Wii-Menus/Sensor-Bar/Sensor-Bar-242923.html

Xbox Kinect at the XBox Official Site

PlayStation Move: http://uk.playstation.com/psmove/

Kinectimals: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kinectimals-Kinect-Compatible-Xbox-360/dp/B003RWTMT8

Disney Infinity: https://infinity.disney.com/en-gb

Move Heroes: http://www.amazon.co.uk/PlayStation-Move-Heroes-Required-PS3/dp/B004HD5650

 

 

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