Eye-Opening New Technology Benefits the Visually Impaired

(DGIwire) – This is a time of technological wonders—and many of the advances now being made are designed to enhance the lives of the visually impaired. As a recent article on Raconteur.net notes, tech is increasingly helping those with no or low vision to live as sighted people do. For example, smart glasses are utilizing AI and augmented reality to provide wearers with real-time access to a wide range of visual information that lets them navigate their surroundings more easily.

Meanwhile, within the world of video gaming, technology is creating new games built “from the ground up” for the visually impaired community. These incorporate a host of features, rooted in feedback from actual players, that are designed to provide a much more immersive experience than what is possible through mainstream games that have merely been adapted for this community after the initial release.

“There is an increasing realization that members of the visually impaired community can live, work and play in ways that are much closer to how sighted people do, thanks to new technology,” says Marty Schultz, the Founder and President of Blindfold Games, an app development company that builds accessible games for the visually impaired community. “Having access to video games designed from the start with them in mind is a growing component of this.”

The idea for Blindfold Games was conceived serendipitously during an after-school App Design Club that Schultz started at his daughter’s middle school. To date, the company has released more than 80 games—available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod—that promote learning and fun. The games have been enjoyed by more than 20,000 visually impaired people from 7 to 70 years old, and recently surpassed half a million downloads.

Blindfold Games fall into several categories. The suite includes casino games like Blackjack and Bingo, card games like Crazy Eights and Rummy, puzzle games like Simon and Color Crush, games inspired by TV game shows such as Name That Tune, word games like Words From Words and Word Search, and sports games like Bowling, Basketball, Baseball and Soccer.

One game, Blindfold Racer, is a classic example of how the “wow” factor and incremental learning are used in Blindfold Games. A 90-second interactive tutorial teaches players how to drive, avoid obstacles and win; then the game begins. Players “steer” with their ears instead of their eyes: if they steer too far to the left, the music gets louder in the player’s left ear; too far to the right and it’s louder in the right ear. To aim for prizes on the road, players steer so the sound is balanced in their heads. Players can speed up, slow down, and pick up and drop off items—all designed to improve coordination between steering and audio processing. All of the games present an audio environment that keeps players engaged in game play, and some games require a great deal of physicality to play well.

“When it comes to giving visually impaired gamers a fun and enjoyable experience, the sky is the limit,” Schultz adds.