Tech Talk: Rock Vibe – A Beat for the Blind

Hello there folks! Now today I was debating on what to post first. I’ve found some really wonderful, and often times nostalgic, games around the webs and via console formats. I’ve also been spending a lot of time working on finding innovative technical improvements in the world of games as well though, and today, that won out as the topic of the day today. A game [ or games if I feel so inclined. ] will come later I promise. Now – onto the good stuff! So it’s not often I’m surprised by technical inventions in the world of games. Let’s face it the Wii didn’t even scare me or shock me that much.

I had this overwhelming feeling that motion control was the way the game industry was headed, but I just hoped they’d keep some semblance of an old control scheme – so much for that. What if the motions on the screen don’t matter though? What if you can’t see at all, and thus, can’t play many games with your friends?

The fact of the matter is though that a young lady from Mountain View, CA may very well have started something that I am totally supportive of. Now I’m not blind, though sometimes with my bad eyesight it feels like it, but I’ve had some blind friends before and I can’t imagine someone who used to be a gamer no longer being able to enjoy experiences of their youth due to loss of sight. This is something that I feel needs to be drastically fixed, and Rupinder Dhillon is taking a step towards making that gaming reality come true.

Today we’re talking about blind gamers and Dhillon has taken a wonderful stride forward with her product called Rock Vibe. She developed the concept during her time in college at UC Santa Cruz. Now Rock Vibe is an extremely cool concept. It works on the idea of sensor vibration in a fitted glove to play their game. A sensor in the glove will let you know when a color is coming up, and when you get it wrong it will make a small sound, as well as if you get it right. Now what does this mean? “Certainly I don’t want yet another music game to clutter my household I’ve already got 20” – you say. Well, sure, you’ve got 20 games that can be shared with your sighted friend while your blind friend has to sit off to the side and imagine that he, or she, is at the world’s worst karaoke concert – but do you have one they can participate with? Probably not.

My point is that games should be accessible to all people, and to exclude someone from activity just because they’ve lost their sense of sight isn’t a cause to say that gaming is dead for them. Gaming can still be achieved, but you just have to know where to look. The Rock Vibe glove looks like an amazing stride forward in the gaming industry, and if the game itself isn’t made, I hope that Dhillon at least gets credit where credit is due and someone picks her prototype up. The vibration glove she uses for this project could impact the way blind individuals can play in the future of games.

Blind people may have the inability to see, but their audio acuity is impeccable. As designers, we need to take this knowledge of the blind anatomy and put it to good use rather than squander it and exclude the visually impaired from the mainstream market. Dhillon is making strides to get kids involved in the music market, but what about other games? I look ahead towards the future and I see a gaming universe that uses her technology for the better. A game based where it can be played via controller for the sighted, and audio cues for the blind. We need to cross technological boundaries we haven’t crossed before. We need to attempt games that can be accessible to all people, and our consoles and PCs need to accommodate them all.

Below is her Kickstarter link. The project will be available for PC, if produced at it’s current level, but I’m hoping for future endeavors. Please folks she has 3 DAYS left on her Kickstarter campaign and she’s about 2,500 shy of her goal. If you have a blind family member or friend, I urge you to check this out. This may very well be the next set of hardware coming out for gaming consoles and making life a little better for blind and sighted gamers. It’s amazing to me that such technology goes falling by the wayside, but that’s why I’m here I suppose. I’ll let her explain the whole process, but I do pray you guys check this lady out. She’s an amazing inventor and she has a wonderful concept that could help not only music games become more accessible, but possibly other games designed for audio cues as well.

Much love gaming nation. Take care and let’s see this world becoming gaming accessible for all!