From a very young age, video games have been an important part of my life. Growing up in a small town, I was one of the few disabled kids in the community, meaning I had few opportunities for accessible competitive team sports. Unlike my peers, I wouldn’t get the chance to learn valuable lessons of teamwork and sportsmanship on the ice or extreme patience on the baseball diamond. While I certainly found other ways to develop these skills, by Grade 7 my parents started driving me 2.5h to London to play electric wheelchair hockey, I still had always wondered what it would be like to take to the ice with friends, playing in front of a roaring crowd, and maybe score the game winning goal in a championship game. As it turns out, I have been able to have some these experiences, albeit simulated, through solo and co-operative video games (like the NHL series on Xbox and PS3) that allow me to transcend my physical limitations and compete with and against other people in a digital space. In the virtual world, physical ability just doesn’t matter as much.
Unfortunately these experiences are not accessible to everyone — there are many with physical disabilities who are not able to use the standard video game controllers and are left to either struggle through a game with limited access or simply watching while others play. A new innovative technology, called control:mapper by Reality Controls, is looking to change that with the help of the AbleGamers Foundation. While it’s probably best if you check out the video to get a better sense of how the technology works, essentially they have found a way to use the Xbox Kinect to allow “hands-free” gaming that turns the player’s body into the controller. What makes this especially unique (and more accessible, over something like the Nintendo Wii) is that the system can be custom-tailored to the specific level of agility and dexterity of the user, so almost everyone will be able to use it. To see it in action and understand why this is so important, check out their promotional YouTube video:
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To help bring this technology to the masses, they are currently running an Indigogo campaign to raise the necessary funds. Got some spare coin? Why not hop over there and help give everyone the chance to play!