Tag: Technology

Bringing everyone to the table.

For families with a mixture of motor and communications abilities, the classic tradition of gathering around a table and playing games can be difficult. Here are some games that are fun for everyone and accessible across a wide range of abilities.

ThinkFun Roll & Play: 

    This game is designed to encourage creativity, active play and gross motor skills. Roll the large soft cube, and perform the activity that’s on the card with the matching color. A great opportunity to all be silly together! You can even create your own actions, just make your own cards! 

https://www.thinkfun.com/products/roll-play/

Bananagrams: 

    Practice spelling without having to hold a writing utensil. It’s like Scrabble, but with fewer rules! Plus, it comes in a fun zip up banana bag, so bonus!

https://bananagrams.com/products/bananagrams

You can also find a braille version of bananagrams and other games and game pieces at MaxiAids.com
https://www.maxiaids.com/board-games

Trouble: Dice games can be difficult for folks with limited fine motor skills. Trouble solves this by having the dice inside a dome that you push down. It pops us and rolls the dice for you! Also, no losing the dice! Hooray!

Rory’s Story Cubes: 

    These little cubes help introduce kids to storytelling without the hurdle of pen and paper. Roll the dice, and create a story around what comes up! Fun for adults also!

https://www.storycubes.com/en/

Jenga: 

While this classic game is known and loved around the world, it can be hard to grab and manipulate those little blocks! Fortunately there are sets with larger blocks, which are much easier to get a hold of.

https://www.amazon.com/Jenga-Giant-Family-Hardwood-Stack/dp/B017J3G46O

Hopefully this list helps bring everyone to the table for some fun!


For a master list of games and their grades on different accessibility scales, check out Meeple Like Us.https://www.meeplelikeus.co.uk/meeple-like-us-masterlist/

Enabled to play

Technology can be anything, and can help with anything.

When we think about technology, we usually picture something with a screen, flashing lights and buttons. In reality, technology can be anything that helps us to do a job. It is defined as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes”.  

Universal Design is about creating an environment that meets the needs of everyone, not just the average human. It’s about designing from the ground up to provide people with different abilities the ability to reach equal results. It’s about being flexible, thoughtful, and inclusive.

We mostly focus on practical usage of technology, but let’s not forget that fun and play are an equally important part of our lives. People can feel left out when their friends play games, but the controllers are too complex for disabled people to use. To help with that, Microsoft created the Xbox Adaptive Controller. https://www.xbox.com/en-US/accessories/controllers/xbox-adaptive-controller This device is an excellent example of universal design. It is flexible, customizable, and allows people with different abilities to play games on an Xbox or PC. If you, or someone you know, could use a little more fun in their lives, give it a look. There isn’t much out there that competes for price and flexibility.

For more information, check out https://ablegamers.org/. They provide personal and financial support, and work to create a better environment for gamers of all kinds.

More resources: https://craighospital.org/services/assistive-technology/assistive-tech-gaming-resources

Source for accessibility reviews and video games.: https://dagersystem.com/

The IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group: https://igda-gasig.org/

UK-based charity SpecialEffect: https://www.specialeffect.org.uk https://www.youtube.com/user/GameOnForEVERYONE

Let your voice be heard

From Thought to Paper with Speech-to-Text

One of the hardest parts of writing is just getting started. Changing personal and specific internal, and sometimes abstract thoughts into something someone else can understand is extremely challenging. If our kids are struggling with writing, why not use their default method of communication to get things started? With Speech-To-Text, they can!

Most phones and computers will do Speech-To-Text now. On iPhone, the default Notes app will listen to your voice and convert it to text. Almost any app that allows text entry, on any mobile device, will offer an option to use the microphone to record your voice and convert it to text. If you’re on a desktop computer with a microphone, this website works pretty well, https://dictation.io/speech, and Google Docs has built-in speech-to-text capabilities under ‘Tools > Voice Typing’.

It’s important to remember that creating documents with dictation is a very different process than starting a document with writing. Allow the spoken dictation to be free flowing. Just start talking, don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or sentence structure. If you think better when you move, try taking a walk or doing some work around the house. If you think of something, record it right away rather than trying to hold onto it until you can write it down. Speak as if you are talking to a friend, or actually record yourself talking to a friend! That can really help keep the thoughts flowing. Let the words flow naturally, with all of your own personality, passion and expression!

Once that’s done, then worry about the editing. Spoken and written communication are very different experiences, so they require very different structures. Use the dictation as a guide. Edit out the ‘umms’, look out for times when you used the same sentence length or repeated yourself. Those typically aren’t a problem when in a conversation, but they are for someone reading. Vary your sentence lengths, remember how you FELT when you spoke the words, and find ways to show that feeling to your reader. Feel free to move sentences and paragraphs around so they tie together better. Conversations have a very different flow than reading, so the finished written product will have substantially changed from what was first recorded.

Remember, the goal isn’t to be a great writer, the goal is to learn how to get ideas on paper.

VR glossary

We are going to be hearing about VR more and more, and with new technology comes new vocabulary. There’s a lot to learn, so let’s get started!

Presence: The feeling that what you are seeing is real, and you are in that reality. It’s a feeling of “being there”.

Field of view: The height and width of your vision. Basically how much you can see around you.

Near Field: Objects close to you are said to be in the Near Field. Because of the way vision works, the closer the object, the more three dimensional it appears.

Far Field: Objects far enough away that they don’t need to be as visibly detailed as objects close to the subject.

Mid Field: Objects that are close enough that they need to be detailed, but far enough away that stereo vision has minimal effect. These objects don’t have to be as detailed as objects in the near field, but more then far field objects.

HMD (Head Mounted Display): This is the part that you put on your head. It contains two separate screens, one for each eye, with each having a lease in front of it that provides magnification and focus.

Latency: This is the amount of time it takes for information to travel out and back. In VR, high latency can cause a delay between head movement and what is displayed on the screen, which can cause nausea in many people.

Resolution: How many pixels make up the image. Usually described by width and height, such as 1920×1080, which means the screen has 1,920 pixels going across its width, and 1,080 going up and down.

Pixel Density: This is a ratio of how many pixels a screen has in a square inch. Usually abbreviated as PPI, for Pixels Per Inch. Two screens can have the same resolution, but drastically different pixel densities. For instance, a 21” computer monitor and a 50” TV can both have a resolution of 1920×1080, but the pixels on the 25” screen are packed much closer together, and are frequently smaller. This results in a clearer image because the blocks of color are closer together. 

Refresh Rate: How frequently the image is replaced on the screen. In VR, a high refresh rate is very important because the image has to be updated frequently, otherwise the human brain becomes uncomfortable and becomes disoriented or nauseous. 

Screen Door Effect: When the images on the screen are magnified like they are in VR, somethings it is possible to see the individual pixels. This gives the effect of looking though a screen door, where there are small out of focus lines in your vision. The higher resolution the screens are, the less noticeable this effect is.

Frame Rate: Frame Rate is the number of times a brand new image is displayed on the screen per second (also known as Frames per Second, or FPS). This is reason this is important for VR is because a low frame rate will cause nausea, due to the delay between what the brain expect to see as the head moves, and what the eyes are seeing. A high frame rate also means smoother movement. For VR to not cause nausea and headaches, the sweet spot seems to be 90-120 FPS. Because the image is being split up, with alternating images for each eye, that means each eye is going to see 45-60 FPS. Any lower and we run into problems.

Room Scale: Room scale refers to a VR experience where you can walk around. Some headsets work better for this then others right now, although updates are coming fast. Right now the HTC Vive is the goto room scale experience to have. Games like Budget Cuts allow you to move around a building, taking out robot security guards in a quest to steal your termination papers. It’s more immersive, but can cause discomfort in some people. 

10 things that Virtual Reality will change forever

10: Musical concerts

Everyone knows that live performances are the best way to experience music. With VR, we can be in the crowd, on the stage, the music and the people all around us. Like this Paul McCartney performance of Live and Let die on Jaunt VR. Want a less public show? An artist can record an unplugged session, just them and an empty room. They are playing just for you. How much would you pay for that?

9: Tourism

I have been to Rome and Paris and the Great Barrier Reef and the surface of Mars. On my phone, in my living room. It’s rudimentary, but even that is impressive and will only get more immersive as time goes on. Here is a video about a company called Visualise producing a VR tour for South Africa.

8: Home buying

Want to walk through a house before you buy it? No problem! Strap on a headset and take a tour! Sotheby’s is already using the Samsung Gear VR to show tours of homes in LA, New York, and the Hamptons. Find out that the previous interior decorator was an idiot from the comfort of your own home. 

7: Journalism

With VR we can experience the war zone and see the destruction. The New York Times and USA Today have apps for Android and iPhone now. We can be in the middle of the protests or the rally. Emotions and mood are hard to convey in pictures and words, but put me in the middle of it and I understand the energy. 

6: Empathy

It’s hard to understand what it’s like to be verbally or physically assaulted unless it has happened to you. VR is so immersive that we feel the anger and aggression directed at a victim, and we can start to understand the pain and fear that victim suffers. A company called Immersive Journalism is trying do just that. Chris Milk has an excellent TED talk about his quest to create the ultimate empathy machine. Hopefully this technology will help us become more understanding and tolerant. 

5: Relaxation

We live in a noisy world, and more and more of us are living in urban cities. Apps like Guided Meditation put you in a calm, relaxing environment, and escape the cement and steel and bright lights for a little while. Give me one of these and a hammock and I’ll be a happy guy!

4: Long distance communication

If you have ever video chatted with a friend or family member via Skype or FaceTime, then you know that is much better then a simple phone call. Now magnify that by a factor of 10, and you’re just about there. VR will bring us closer together. For business it will mean that a global company can communicate more efficiently and reduce travel costs. This will save huge amounts of time and money and increase productivity across the board. 

3: Gaming

Gaming has always pushed the boundaries of technology.  The first widespread use of VR will be among gamers, and they will be the beta testers for everyone else. Even once VR is widespread, gaming will continue to push the technology forward with new experiences and interfaces. Check out what Void VR is doing for instance.

2: Entertainment

Virtual reality entertainment will explode as creators will no longer be limited to displaying a flat image. Suddenly the viewer is inside the story, able to look at whatever they want, whenever they want. This will present difficult challenges, and many movies will be better presented with a field of view that is wider then it is now, but will still be limited. 3D space is difficult to manage, and won’t be ideal for many applications. Where it will really shine, however, is world building. If you can imagine it, you can create it in 3D space, and people can walk through it. Sports events will be presented in VR, like this years Daytona 500, which will be streamed in real time by a company called NextVR. How would you like to watch your favorite team or sporting event right from the sideline, or any number of other places?

1: Education

Access to information and infrastructure are some of the great limiters on a persons life. With VR, those barriers can be significantly lowered. With VR, you can learn to weld steel anywhere, without touching a torch or using up raw materials. Get in a bunch of practice, take a test using real life materials to prove your skill, and you’re in! Learn to drive a truck without even stepping inside one, take a couple physical tests to prove your skills, and viola! Now you’re a truck driver! StriVR Labs already have systems in use like this already  in the NFL and other sports. Imagine firefighters training in an extremely hot environment, outfitted with dummy equipment and VR headsets. Thanks to an immersive VR world, the firefighters get to practice without catching anything, or anyone, on fire!

Tasks that require extensive practice and repetition are excellent candidates for VR training. Practice scenarios can be built and reused without wasting resources. People in rural areas and developing counties can practice and learn and improve their lives anywhere there is a computer.

Virtual Reality may be not be real, but it is limitless. And it’s going to make a huge difference in our world.

I want to know what you think about VR. What do you think the risks are? What are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments below, and let’s talk about it!