Twitter

Image from Fox in Socks - 'I can't blab such blibber blubber!' line. You can now follow more OneSwitch blibber-blubber at the micro-blogging site Twitter. I didn't think I was going to like it but I do. It's a very quick way to update people on anything you want to share and equally quick to keep up to date with others posting. Follow-me-now here.

More Fox in Socks here.

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Tom Hark



Smell the vinyl! And the Piranah's version my Mum used to sing to me as a kid.

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AbleGamers GDC 2009 News Flash

GDC 2009 Accessible Gaming News Flash. AbleGamers have been posting about this year's Game Developer Conference from an accessible gaming perspective. The most essential viewing has to be The One Question interview posed to attendees. "Have you ever thought about how disabled people play video games?". Illuminating.

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Myron Krueger Interview

Image of a member of the public interacting in Videoplace with his on-screen image.In April 2005 I interviewed Myron Kruger, a pioneer of highly accessible computer interfaces, and someone I respect greatly. I got in touch shortly after posting my Accessible Gaming Pioneers page where his work took top billing.

I wanted to ask him about his work enabling people of all abilities, and also upon his thoughts on the Playstation EyeToy which borrows very heavily from some of his work...


1. When did you first become aware of the impact your work could have upon disabled people?
"One thing I think I am good at is generalizing ideas. When I came up my ideas in 1969 and 70, I considered a hundred applications in which computer simulations could benefit from physical participation almost immediately. A variety of disability applications were included in the original outline of my dissertation in 1971, in the first draft in February 1972, and in the final text of "Computer-Controlled Responsive Environments" in 1974. These included physical therapy and the system for making graphic maps available to blind people. Pysychiatric therapy including ideas for reaching autistic children were also considered. In fact, I was offered a job in the department of psychiatry at the University of Kentucky in 1970."


2. When did you see this become a reality?

"Actually like Moses, I never got to see the promised land. Initial approaches to NIH in the 70s, got nowhere. Formal proposals in the early and mid 1980s were all rejected. The system for the blind did get SBIR Phase I funding in 1995 and 98, but no Phase 2 was ever received. Similarly, the range-of-motion proposal that I submitted with United Cerebral Palsy was not accepted. However, other people have received funding to implement some of my ideas and there are now conferences based on them."


3. How and when did you get involved with United Cerebral Palsy of Long Island?
"Pauli Pachter contacted me and we did a two day demonstration in Long Island, followed by a week long experiment with a number of subjects including Greg, Howie, Barbara, and Misha. (Say hello to them if they are still in touch with the Center. And apologize to them for me not being able to get the funding to continue working with them.)"


4. Has this work now ceased?
"For the most part it has. While I have been funded to do unrelated research, I have come to the conclusion that my odds of receiving funding to pursue my own ideas are too poor to continue sharing my ideas. There are probably 15 conferences that address topics which I identified and was first to pursue."


5. Do you think the description of your pioneering work at OneSwitch, in relationship to accessible play / video games is fair?


"The article does note my work but cuts it off in 1980 when it actually went on through the 80s and 90s. It also does not mention my books which contain a number principles which are not associated with my work. Artificial Reality (Addison-Wesley, 1983) and Artificial Reality II (Addison-Wesley, 1991). For instance, the blind interface was mentioned in the dissertation but only funded and demonstrated in the 90s.

• “KnowWhere: Virtual Reality Maps for Blind People,” CSUN Conference, Los Angeles, March, 1997.
• “KnowWare: An Audio/Spatial Interface for Blind People,” International Conference on Audio Display, Xerox Park Laboratories, November 1997
• “KnowWhere™: Experimental Results,” Medicine Meets Virtual Reality Conference, San Francisco, Jan 1999."


6. What do you think of Sony's Eye Toy?

"Since my technology is the subject of a patent which covers the EyeToy, I am not a great enthusiast for SONY. They acknowledge that I invented it but believe that they have more money for legal fees than I do. In that, of course, they are correct.

As for the EyeToy itself, I was shocked when I saw it. It takes genius to take a technology that has publically entertained a million people and use it as the basis for a product that can entertain no one. If they had acknowledged my patent and worked with me from the beginning, they would have had a much more successful product and not disappointed millions of customers. I base these comments on the original software which is all I have seen. If there is anything new, I have not yet seen it."

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2008 Retro Remakes Competition: The End

Image of Special Effect and Retro Remakes banners below an image of a young boy delighted whilst using an Eye Tracker for the first time successfully. The Retro Remakes 2008 Competition has finally come to a full close. Rob 'Odd Bob' Fearon has posted his personal break down of the greatest games of the competition, and also lists the end results for all categories with a link to download the lot. Retro Remakes continue to support Special Effect via their Just Giving donation page. It would be great if you would to.

A final massive thanks to all involved in the Game for Helen category from OneSwitch. Marvellous!

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Tongue and Bite Switches

Image of 10 skydivers forming a ring falling to earth over a blue coast-line. Just added details of a tongue and bite switch available from Conceptus Camera Switches to the Accessible Gaming Shop. Originally designed for sky-diving photography, these can easily be adapted for use with assistive technology.

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Barack Obama

Image of Barack Obama - entitled 'PLUM'Silly boy for a day (click on Barack for more info). He has a lot of catching up to do though if he's ever to match George Bush for daft comments.

Fish Hammers: Les Poissons Marteaux



Via: The Réseau Nouvelles Technologies excellent "Les Infos Flash" blog.

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EyePet

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EyeToy: Play

EyeToy Play How did I ever miss the EyeToy out of the Accessible Gaming Shop? This wonderful little device was the big thing in gaming before the Wii took hold. The EyeToy is a small camera that puts you on-screen and in the game. You can use any part of your body to play, which is where the huge degree of accessibility comes in.

I immediately warmed to the EyeToy after viewing the superb opening instructions (US version here). If only all games explained themselves so clearly. Instantly I was reminded of Myron Kreuger's VideoPlace (of which the EyeToy owes a huge debt) which I'd always wanted to experience since seeing in 1990 on TV.

I fell in love with EyeToy when I discovered the "Play Room" area. A choice of ten or so different multi-sensorial no-pressure activities. From popping bubbles, chasing fish, a copy-cat feature (my favourite) to crazy psychedelics. This is something that anyone who can move, can interact with. You don't even need to move a lot. Just move the camera to focus in on the part of the body of choice.

Brilliant and highly recommended to Playstation 2 users (not sure about PS3 - still haven't got one).

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One Switch Train Set and More

HelpKidzLearn have released Train Tracker with some excellent basic accessibility features. Simultaneously they've uploaded Big Bang Patterns and Big Bang Pictures which both give a taster of their respective commercial cause and effect educational software. All accessible to one-switch users.

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An Open Letter To Game Developers

Image of a lone protester stopping a train in its tracks, holding a plackard that reads 'THIS IS A PEACEFUL PROTEST'. Michelle Hinn, chair of the IGDA's GASIG (Game Accessibility Special Interest Group) has posted an open letter to game developers over at AbleGamers. It's a heart felt plea for developers to make more efforts to avoid disabling gamers. OneSwitch is 100% behind it.

If you'd like to join the campaign, or simply would like to learn a little more, please take a look at the OneSwitch campaign page and blog entries.

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myEye Project: Free Eye Tracker

Artistic impression of an eye and iridology. The myEye Project seeks to bring free Eye Tracker technology to those who may need it but are unable to afford a £20,000 Tobii. It's a free PC download that makes use of a web-cam that must be mounted close to one of your eyes.

[EDIT] You'll likely need to adapt your web-cam for infra-red use, which isn't too complicated, but is a little fiddly. The author of the myEye Project, Marcelo Laginestra recommends this "Webcam Filter Removal" guide.

On a related tack, there's a great blog post here linked to a young lad trying out a MyTobii thanks to the Stargaze project run by Special Effect.

Finally, next month another low cost Eye Tracker is due to be released via the ITU GazeGroup.

Via: TLWMSN, Martin Tall and Nick Streeter of Special Effect.

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ROCK BAND: One Switch Guitar

Rock Band Switch Accessible Guitar.I've finally got around to uploading my D.I.Y. accessibility switch adaptation to Harmonix's Rock Band Guitar. This great peripheral can be played one-handed (use any other free part of your body to hit a switch to strum). Alternatively one person can strum using the switch, and another can do the tricky fret work.

On top of this both the Xbox 360 and PS2/PS3 Guitar's can be hooked up to a PC and used as a pretty novel switch interface controller. You can use it to play one-switch games, pretend to be a Zen Guitar Master with Mr. Fast Finger and even use this as a mouse replacement thanks to JoyToKey.
Next up, the drums and a brilliant one-switch sample player.

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BBC Radio 4 - Game Accessibility - In Touch

Mortal Kombat - blurred up. Played as an Audio Game. Graham Race of MERU kindly pointed me in the direction of an interesting Radio 4 "In Touch" item on Accessible Gaming. It reflects the experiences of many blind and partially-sighted gamers. Seems Mortal Kombat can work out as a playable game for completely blind players due to the diverse use of sound. The item includes direct contact with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft which was quite illuminating:

Sony

"I'm David Wilson at Sony. Whilst we have had experience of visually impaired gamers, to the best of my knowledge we have never had any approach from people who are fully blind. Because video gaming is such a visual art form we're not sure how we could recreate the experience of non-linear interactive entertainment for a blind gamer. Of course we would never seek to exclude anyone from the joys of video game entertainment and we have worked with people with disabilities to enable them to participate. For example, redesigning a controller for a person with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. But unless any of your listeners have some valid suggestions we are currently not sure how to adapt such a visual interactive medium without fundamentally redesigning the whole game to the point where it ceases to be the same product or experience."

Nintendo

"We are continually looking at ways we can bring our games to as broad and diverse range of people as possible. Creating video games that work effectively for blind or partially sighted customers is however a major challenge. While it is relatively simple to add a sound layer for DVD menus, for example adding audio assistance or tutorials, will not work with most existing games which depend on fast moving visuals, such as Mario Cart. Achieving a game such as this that works equally well for sighted and visually impaired users is unfortunately not practically possible. It is possible to create games based purely on sound and Nintendo published one such game in Japan for Game Boy Advance in 2007 called Sound Voyager which involved players using sounds from the left and right speakers to guide a target. These games are currently very rare but with the video game market and technologies evolving all the time this may change."

Microsoft

"We're still awaiting a reply from Microsoft."

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Foot Controlled Pinball - part 2

Pinball and exercise and knee damage. Looks fun prior to collapse. Would love to see more pinball machines with alternative accessible controllers. I've posted before on a dance mat hooked up to a pinball machine and U Can Do's switch accessible machines - but who else is doing anything I wonder.

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One Handed Favourite - Back In Production

Console and Gadgets One Handed Controller. Great news for one-handed gamers looking for a DragonPlus DuoCon2 RPG replacement. Consoles and Gadgets in the UK have put these into production and are due to release them next month.
"...You may remember seeing this PS2 PS3 One Handed Controller in the centre pages of FHM a year or so back. Sadly it was not long until these sold out and after a couple of years waiting for more, we have decided just to start production of these ourselves, simply because there's not a day goes by [when] customers don't ask about these so we are pleased to finally offer them again very soon."
Fantastic news! More on alternative one-handed controllers and console adapters at the One Switch Accessible Gaming Shop. Many thanks to Fay Columbo for the tip, and for a number of second hand DragonPlus controllers that I hope to get fixed up before too long.

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Reverse! Reverse!

Dream-Gamer in action.
Dream-Gamer with two switch interface boxes.

I'm not a huge fan of Facebook and I'm often teetering on deleting my account. I felt a lot less like doing that after reading a great customer testimonial on Excitim's Dream-Technology's pages. Here's a snippet:

"It was approaching Xmas, and yet again I was finding it difficult to think of gifts for my son Scott who is 10 and has Cerebral Palsy. I wanted a TV interactive game - something that he could have fun with and use as independently as possible. Most of the games on the market had simple controls aimed at much younger children. His friends his age have PlayStations. I thought about it a lot, how wonderful it would be for Scott to be able to operate a PlayStation just like his friends, but never considered he would be able to, as the controls require good hand functionality and control.

That's when I was thrilled to come across the Dream-Gamer Web Site and was inspired by the story of another young boy like Scott, who had similar disabilities, but through a brilliant piece of equipment had been given access to independently play on a PlayStation."

The slightly revised Dream-Gamer PS2 controller with a slew of able-net switches and Maxess mounts were the very nice end result. See more switch accessible gaming gear at the Accessible Gaming Shop.

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Windchimes: Basic Accessible Gaming Training

Screenshot from Shenmue. Ryo Hazuki being offered option to PLAY or CAN'T PLAY an emulated game of OutRun. The following links support the Basic Accessible Gaming training provided at Windchimes on the 6th of March 2009:


Developing Basic Gaming Skills and Game Accessibility Awareness

SEN Switcher: Training for switch users new to games and accessible technology. Teaches some of the absolute basics of gaming from cause and effect upwards.

GAME OVER: The world's most inaccessible game. A great way for people supporting disabled gamers to understand the many barriers they may face.

Utilities

JoyToKey: A free PC utility that enables joysticks/joypads to act as a mouse or keyboard. Essential for many switch users.

Games

Accessible Gaming Shop: A useful starting point for accessible games and hardware.

Some of the one-switch games on show were: Penalty; Whacka Monty Mole; Aurikon; Mini-Golf. The mouse games made available were: 5 Differences and 6 Differences. The emulated Sonic the Hedgehog will eventually have a home at the ATE Arcade.

Consoles and Controller Help

C-SID Info and Instructions. Help for better understanding the Games Console Switch Interface Deluxe.

EyeToy Demo: The PS2 EyeToy instructions.

Playstation 2: Quick Start Guide.

Wii: YouTube beginners guides. Part one deals with setting the console up. Part two deals with the Wii remote. Very geeky - but useful.

Getting deeper into Game Accessibility

The IGDA's GASIG (Game Accessibility Special Interest Group) have a huge number of links and information at their blog.

For more help please get in touch via OneSwitch.org.uk.

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SpecialEffect runs the British 10K

White on black diagram of a man running. Special Effect have announced all their current runners for the British 10K to raise money for the Game For Helen Project. If you've not given already, please consider supporting one of the listed runners (me included!). Spare a couple of quid, gov?

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Retro Remakes - Game For Helen Results

Seizure inducing 1970's lounge. I quite like it as it goes. The results are all in for Retro Remakes 2008 competition, including the Game For Helen category. I was slightly amazed at the top spot but still delighted that the compo took place and people made such efforts. Full links to the games will be up again soon (after some plum wrecked the RR site).

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Morph Army

Army of Morphs.

"Forget flashmob - this was more Morphmob. Outside London's Tate Modern, about 200 devotees gathered to pay tribute to their doyen of DIY art - Tony Hart.

The children's television presenter and art enthusiast passed away earlier this year aged 83. On Sunday some of his legions of fans decided to build a terracotta army of little orange men in his memory.

Scores of Morphs and his minions thronged a corner of the capital's South Bank. Their creators had fashioned them as a way of saying 'thank you'.

Speak to any of them and they would tell you Hart inspired them to get out there and create. "

Via: BBC News UK

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