Our ability to picture children and teens playing video games is about as vivid as the animation of the games themselves. The full picture, however, is incomplete, because current technology does not afford most individuals with motor disabilities the option of participating.

Improving Access to Gaming

Millions of people across the world spend hours interfacing with the characters and activities provided on these bright screens – all in a desire to have fun and connect. Today’s tech games are accessible in even the most remote parts of the world, translated into many languages, and designed for individuals of all ages. And yet, sadly, they are not accessible for nearly all people with motor disabilities.

The Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF) is working to change that.

In partnership with UCLA’s Center for Cerebral Palsy, USC’s Interactive Creative Technology Lab, and, critically, with Microsoft, we are creating an approach that will use the Kinect’s power to interpret diverse gestures as controller inputs – turning the Kinect into a Personal Gesture Translator. With this we can provide innovative accessibility for people with disabilities who want to be included in the gaming experience – and, even more importantly, in playing with friends.

Our collaborative network will begin with the knowledge of experienced and research-focused physical and occupational therapists providing input on how to best tap into the diversity of movements of people with physical disabilities. These movements will then be mapped to commands used in typical video games. This data collection will result in the creation of an interface that opens up a group of games to those who have never been able to have the experience. We look to eventually bring these insights into the way gaming can take place for everyone.

Importantly, the power of this project comes from building off existing technology and insights to create something new. It’s an idea whose time is here. And that means that we can all push to achieve the vision of kids with disabilities playing alongside their peers sooner rather than later. A perfect example of translational research that should be happening today.

The Kinect’s interdisciplinary approach to solving a simple problem is just one example of how CPF is transforming lives for individuals with cerebral palsy not many years down the road, but today. Now our image of children playing together is finally complete – because it is a picture of ALL children joining in on the fun.