Gam­ing app for the vis­ually im­paired

Auckland City Harbour News - - OUT & ABOUT - CA­TRIN OWEN

A group of university stu­dents are get­ting in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for a video game app they de­signed for blind peo­ple.

De­vel­oped by PhD stu­dent Jarek Beksa, Au­dio Games Hub is a video game app that is de­signed to be played us­ing au­dio rather than vis­ual cues.

Beksa orig­i­nally started the project in Poland be­fore mov­ing to New Zealand to con­tinue study­ing at AUT University in Auck­land.

‘‘Blind peo­ple sel­dom play games be­cause they don’t know there are games out there,’’ Beksa says.

‘‘When I first did tests in Poland the blind peo­ple were re­ally scep­ti­cal but af­ter a few min­utes of play­ing there was huge smiles.’’

He joined forces with five other stu­dents from cen­tral Auck­land who have worked tire­lessly on cre­at­ing the free app.

So far it has been down­loaded 33,000 times by users all over the world. Beksa says the de­vel­op­ment process has taken nearly two years.

‘‘At the be­gin­ning it was quite easy, we looked at ar­cade games for sighted peo­ple and we looked to see if it was pos­si­ble to trans­fer it.

‘‘We blind­folded our­selves to see if it was pos­si­ble and when we thought the game was playable we went to peo­ple who were blind who de­cided if they were playable,’’ he says.

Users rely on sounds, echo, ef­fects and spo­ken word to carry them through the the var­i­ous games in­clud­ing archery, block games sim­i­lar to Tetris and labyrinth.

App de­vel­oper David Del­gado says the team had to over­come some ob­sta­cles.

‘‘We’re try­ing to pro­vide an ex­pe­ri­ence like no other for the I thought I wouldn’t ever see,’’ the user said.

Launched in April, the app has picked up awards from global gam­ing events and be­ing recog­nised by blind as­so­ci­a­tions.

Due to an in­creas­ing de­mand for more games they have launched a Kick­starter cam­paign.

CA­TRIN OWEN

App de­sign­ers Vin­cent Pole­hwidhi, David Del­gado, Jarek Beksa and Jeong Su Jeon.

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