A gam­ing app for blind peo­ple

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - 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 who have worked tire­lessly on cre­at­ing the free app.

So far it has been down­loaded 33,000 times by users all over the world.

‘‘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,’’ Beksa says.

‘‘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.’’

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.

‘‘Usu­ally games rely on lights and visual el­e­ments, you have to com­pletely take that out and that changes the way you de­sign games.

‘‘We’re try­ing to pro­vide an ex­pe­ri­ence like no other for the blind com­mu­nity,’’ Del­gado says.

One user in Canada emailed Au­dio Games Hub af­ter play­ing the game and shared his joy of be­ing able to play games with his wife.

‘‘You made pos­si­ble some­thing I thought I wouldn’t ever see,’’ the user said.

Launched in April, the app has picked up awards from global gam­ing event Play by Play Fes­ti­val and the Royal Na­tional In­sti­tute of Blind Peo­ple UK.

There is a de­mand to make more games and the team has launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to raise money to de­velop more.

CA­TRIN OWEN

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

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