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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guitar Hero adapted for the visually impaired

The video game industry reports that approximately 190 million households, representing 63% of the population, will use a video game console in 2012. However since video games rely primarily on visual stimuli, those who are blind or have a visual disability don't often get to enjoy this popular form of entertainment...until now.

Researchers at the University of Nevada have developed a version of the popular video game Guitar Hero that is accessible to those who are blind or have a visual disability. They call their version "Blind Hero" and it replaces the visual stimuli of the game with haptic stimuli which is based on the sense of touch.

For those who are unfamiliar with Guitar Hero, the game play requires the use of a plastic, scaled down version of an electric guitar that, instead of having strings and frets, has a corresponding array of buttons. For instance there is a button that moves up and down above the area that you would find the pickups that simulates a strumming action. A player watches a television screen and tries to coordinate the pressing and strumming of buttons in time to the changing musical tones and audio effects as represented by colored dots on the screen. Essentially it is the simulation of playing rock music on the electric guitar.

Blind Hero uses the same guitar controller and audio cues in Guitar Hero but instead of following a display of colored dots on a screen players wear a special glove on one hand. The glove receives an electrical signal from the video game that activates a small vibrating motor on each finger alerting a player to press a button corresponding to the changing musical tones. The length of the vibration indicates how long a player must hold the button.

While the high cost of Blind Hero can be prohibitive to a budding video gamer with a visual disability, it represents a step in the direction toward more accessibility of this popular form of entertainment.

For more information read the study at the following address: