Electronic entertainment 2

September 30, 2008

Last post I talked about the video game Rez and how the gameplay was highly dependent on audio and tactile feedback.

Physics engines in games have been getting increasingly realistic. There are millions of calculations per second in a modern PS3 or XBox360 game devoted to how things fall, bounce and scatter. Furthermore, most computers and game consoles now have a second whole processor devoted to calculating how light from specific sources in the game bounces off things and scatters.

Has anyone devoted this much attention to in-game sound physics?

With 5.1 surround audio, the possibility of a game having realistic doppler and echo effects would be highly immersive and make the sound-based gameplay I was talking about before possible. I know some games use doppler, but I don’t think it is calculated realistically on the fly and I don’t think anyone is simulating realistic echo.

Could such a game be used in therapy as a VR training method for teaching that clicking technique thatBen Underwood uses?


Anyone used the new iPod Nano yet? They’ve added some accessibility features to the 4th gen Nano and iTunes 8. They’ve also added captioning support for movies. (Although I question the usefulness of captions on the Nano. Notice they don’t include a screenshot.)






Read on for some more ideas for other electronic entertainment ideas.

How would I create an adaptation to video games for a blind player?

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Community planning

September 26, 2008

Okay, getting to business. This blog is supposed to be about how design can improve the lives of people with disabilities.

I found this blog with the “random blog” button on WordPress.

Planning Livable Communities

While it has never mentions disability, the ideas here are exactly the sort of thing that I am referring to when I talk about “design” as a tool. If we make our communities accessible and comfortable for people with all sorts of disabilities, it just naturally becomes better for everyone. And vice-versa. It’s not an either-or.

Disabilities in pop culture 3

September 25, 2008


Daredevil is blind due to a chemical spill that burned his eyes and simultaneously gave him extremely fine other senses.



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September 23, 2008

I watched two small girls playing on campus today outside the Creamery. While they ate their ice cream, they played a game where every time a bus would come by, they would race to see who could read out the number on the side of it first. If they said it at the same time, there was apparently some sort of “jinx” involved. They did this for quite a while– at least ten minutes.

CATA bus

CATA bus

No grown-up would invent such a game. It is too… frivolous. And in some ways, too obvious.
The thing that I found so fascinating about it was that the rules to this game seemed to spring up spontaneously, out of thin air. One second they were eating ice cream and the next second, “EIGHTY-EIGHT! Jinx!”

What access to metaplay communication do AAC kids have? How do we increase their ability to regulate the flow of play scenarios and games they find themselves in? Especially given the fact that we cannot anticipate the rules of games that occur spontaneously.

Ice Cream Truck

September 22, 2008

Here’s a play activity for kids who use AAC and a wheelchair (although the wheelchair is optional). The wheelchair is an ice cream truck.

What is great about this play scenario is that it encourages interaction, follows a predictable script that is easy to program into AAC, is rather gender neutral (which is a plus, since most of my brainstorming ideas are very boy-centered), and involves pretending to do a favorite activity.

ice cream

List of things you need:

plastic ice cream

play money

stickers, velcro, or magnetic signs to decorate the wheelchair

AAC system programmed with–

annoying music– Turkey in the Straw, The Entertainer (seriously; what fun is a noisy toy if it doesn’t irritate the grownups in the vicinity?)

The script:

“You want ice cream?” “What kind?” numbers 1-10 “__dollars please.” “you’re welcome” “here’s your change”

The thing that people miss is that pretend play requires drama. And drama comes from conflict. To prolong and add depth to the interaction, you need to work within the social script, but add some conflict to the interaction.

“We’re out of that kind.” “That’ll be one million dollars.” “That ice cream is poisoned!”

These kinds of silly improvisations are things that children do on their own naturally, but our AAC kids are at the mercy of our programming. They can’t say something unless we’ve given it to them. As a result, our voice influences their voice. And let’s face it, we’re boring to play with; this is why kids don’t play with us. As long as our AAC kids sound just like us, kids aren’t going to want to play with them either.

AAC toys 1

September 21, 2008

When I was a boy–and I don’t see any indication that kids have changed any–violent shoot-’em-up play was quite prevalent. I spent my childhood being a Jedi, soldier, superhero, survivalist resistance fighter behind enemy lines, and giant robot mecha pilot.

How might I have engaged in that sort of thing if I used a wheelchair and AAC?

I probably couldn’t. But kids today can. The beauty of the newer AAC devices is that they are fully functioning tablet PCs. The Mercury, ECO-14, and DV all have USB ports just like any laptop.

Oh the possibilities!

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Disability in pop culture 2

September 20, 2008


Keeping with the Marvel Comics theme, Snake-Eyes is a ninja commando for the anti-terrorist strike force G.I. Joe. His first appearance was in G.I. Joe #1 in 1982.

Snake-Eyes with sword

Snake-Eyes with sword

Snake-Eyes was injured in a helicopter crash that severely burned his face and destroyed his vocal cords. Throughout the series, Snake-Eyes never speaks (his injuries made him unable to phonate), and his face is always hidden behind a mask.

Several issues play up how repulsive his face is under the mask, and he seems to be sensitive about it. It is apparently so ugly that it makes elite special ops soldiers cringe. (In issue #96 his face is revealed and it was really underwhelming. It wasn’t really that bad.)

At no point in 155 issues of the comic, do I remember Snake-Eyes using any sort of augmentative alternative communication, either aided or a formal sign language. Only gestures. The implication seemed to be that the rest of the team knew him so well (many of them served with him in Vietnam before they formed the G.I. Joe unit) that they could just naturally understand him.

Again, as with Professor X, his disabilities serve to exaggerate and emphasize some other positive quality.

He is secretive– the government has made his name a Classified secret. (He literally doesn’t have a face.)

He is silent– he’s a skilled ninja master. (He cannot speak. )

Disability in pop culture 1

September 20, 2008

Charles Xavier

Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men, is typically depicted in a wheelchair. This character debuted in Uncanny X-Men #1 in 1963.

Professor Charles Xavier

Professor Charles Xavier

Professor X is a superhero in his own right. The wheelchair serves as a cue that his powers are mental rather than physical. Charles is amongst the most powerful telepaths in the world. While other superheroes deliver physical ass-kickings, Charles’ domain is the mind. Depicting him as an old man (baldness?) in a wheelchair emphasizes this.

Thinking about other examples of how disability is used in popular culture to emphasize some other positive quality…

Okay, well

September 20, 2008

Well, I have a blog. I don’t have a lot of time for this, but I do have a lot of ideas. 

I’ve been inspired by some brilliant people and I’d like to share my ideas. Perhaps publishing these will begin to force me to think about them more consciously as well.

I was inspired by these two blogs, and I hope to sortof combine the features of the two of them into something new.