Cerebral Palsy Family Network has released a video showing children and teens with cerebral palsy delighting in playing video games using a new technology. The players, some with visual impairment, used gestures instead of keyboards.
The gaming technology is under development at the UCLA/Orthopaedic Hospital's Cerebral Palsy Center, in conjunction with the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies (USC-ICT). It was demonstrated earlier this year at a Family Forum, which CP Family Network videotaped.
"The video shows kids using gestures to manipulate video games. We wanted to capture the excitement about this new resource for kids, and talk to the researchers who developed it," said Teresa Kelly, director of CPFN relationship development.
Eileen Fowler, Ph.D., head clinical researcher for the project, said the development team will release a website by the end of the year where parents can get instructions on computer and Kinect requirements along with links to access free games. The two games that were demonstrated at the Family Forum were Tux Racer and Miami Shark.
"The games are equipped with a toolkit that will allow users to assign gestures instead of mouse and keyboard input to operate the games. This allows for user-customized, body-based control of existing off-the-shelf computer games on the PC using the Microsoft Kinect sensor," Dr. Fowler said.
The initial funding for this project was provided by Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation with additional support from the CP Family Network. Interviewed for the video were Dr. Fowler, Dr. Belinda Lange, of USC-IT, and Dr. James Blackman, medical director, CPIRF.
Dr. Fowler and Dr. Lange provided the CP Family Network with answers to some other key questions:
Q. Who is this technology going to be suitable for (functional parameters)?
At this point in time, the technology is most suitable for use by people who have some motor control of their elbows and/or shoulder joints and/or trunk. The technology can be used by people while standing or sitting in a chair or wheelchair. The number of joints that are under voluntary control will affect the number and type of gestures that can be used to interact with the games. A number of different games can be played and each individual can play using different gestures based on their level of movement. When using a wheelchair, it is difficult for the technology to visualize the leg clearly so gestures involving lower limb movement within a wheelchair cannot currently be accommodated.
Q. What's the formal name of the product?
The name of the "middle ware" program is Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit (FAAST). FAAST was developed by the USC-Institute for Creative Technologies. FAAST is designed as middleware to facilitate integration of full-body control with games and virtual reality applications.
Q. Will it be able to interface with all available video games?