2006 Conference General Sessions

A SIMPLE GAME GENERATOR TO DESIGN AUDIO/TACTILE GAME FOR YOUNG BLIND CHILDREN

 

Presenter(s)
Dominique Archambault
University Pierre et Marie Curie Inserm U483
9 quai Saint Bernard
Paris 75005

France
Day Phone: +33144272610
Email: dominique.archambault@upmc.fr

Presenter(s)
Arnaud Puret (2)

Nicolas Monmarch (2)
Mohand Slimane (2)
Laboratoire d'Informatique de l'Universitrans Rabelais,
Polytech Tours, France

A software game generator to easily design content templates for a simple audio/tactile matching game dedicated for very young children with severe visual impairment.

1. The TiM project

The overall aim of the TiM project (Tactile Interactive Multimedia computer games for visually disabled children) [1] was to provide young visually disabled children, with or without additional disabilities, with multimedia computer games they can access independently, that is without any assistance of a sighted person. Original studies about adaptation of game interaction situations to non visual interfaces were performed, and we have developed a game development platform, called  blindstation [2], facilitating the design of games intended to visually disabled children.

The blindstation is an API using a modality-independent model: one of its most important features is the separation between the game scenario (implemented independently of the devices, using the Python scripting language language and the abstract components of the API) and the multimodal and multilingual resources (an XML style sheet associate the game objects with the resources necessary for each device). The API components are able to manage various devices corresponding to modalities used by visually impaired people (tactile, audio, large screen displays). Blindstation is an opensource software that can be downloaded at http://libbraille.org/blindstation">http://libbraille.org/blindstation

A set of games was designed and these games have been evaluated with visually disabled children [3]. Information about TiM games can be accessed on timgames website: http://www.timgames.org">http://www.timgames.org

2. findit!

One of the games prototypes designed during the TiM project, <em>findit!</em>, is a very simple matching game, intended to work with
various content sets, called templates. This game is dedicated to very young visually impaired children. It can also be used with older visually impaired children with additional cognitive disabilities.

A first content template was developed during the TiM project. It is based on 4 cats in 4 different situations: the purring cat, the kitten, the angry cat, the hungry cat. Then it contains 4 illustrations, 4 sounds, 4 recorded audio comments (like This one is pleased, this must be Happy, the purring cat ), etc. A tactile overlay
was developed with the cat represented in the same way in each case (a round piece of fur): on a pillow for the purring one, with corners in sand paper for the angry one, close to a plastic plate for the hungry one, and then the kitten is smaller and in a small basket.  The player can either discover the overlay and hear the sound of the different areas or be asked by the computer to find one of the cats. A zoom mode allows partially sighted children to access a full size alternative image of each cat.

Tactile overlays are designed independently from the game generator. Indeed, according to the age of the target children, the best way is to use various nice material sticked on a PVC sheet.  The tactile overlay is inserted in a tactile board. The blindstation was designed to work as well with tactile boards connected to the serial port (like the Concept Keyboard, from the Concept Keyboard Company TM: blindstation supports its protocol) or using tactile boards connected
via the keyboard port (like IntelliKeys TM or the Swedish Flexiboard TM: via the use of keyboard shortcuts).

The game itself is very simple but its interest comes from: (1) the possibility of designing series of templates allowing to tell a little story. (2) the availability of a very simple game generator enabling any person without any specific computer skills to design templates.

3. The game generator

The game generator provides a very simple drag and drop interface allowing to design templates that can be eventually chained together.

3.1 Template objects

The generator allows to set up the number of objects of the template. There is no limitation but it is not realistic to put too much objects on the tactile sheet. On an A4 it various from 3 to 12, but can be set to 32 for instance in the case of Braille labels in a game intended fro beginner Braille readers. The various objects will
be associated with a rectangle on the screen, a set of cells on the tactile board and a keyboard shortcut.  

A simple screen editor shows a preview of the game screen and allows to set up the objects sizes with the mouse, and to select sets of objects to align according to various layouts (horizontal/vertical centered, flushed right/left, top/bottom).

3.2 Resources for each object

Then each object can be associated with a picture, an alternative text, an alternative picture (for the zoom mode), an spoken comment. Additionally it is possible to record some spoken guidelines and clues if the template is intended to be used as a matching game.

The software embeds a simple audio recorder with volume control and basic editing function (select, cut and trim). It is also possible to pick up an existing file via standard dialog boxes.

3.3 Game generation

Finally the game generator will create an XML file of the game, and a package containing all the resources: sounds, images, localisation
of tactile and screen areas, keyboard shortcuts... This template will be loaded in the findit game. A selection screen allows to choose between the templates available on the computer.  

3.4 Implementation

As the blindstation is multilingual, the game generator allows to prepare the games in several languages. It is also quite simple to use it to translate an existing template into a new language.  The interface itself supports also multiple languages (French, English and Swedish).

The game generator was developed using the Python language. The user graphical interface is built using wxWidgets (http://www.wxwidgets.org">http://www.wxwidgets.org), a very efficient opensource cross-platform GUI framework. The audio uses the
Snack Sound Toolkit (http://www.speech.kth.se/snack">http://www.speech.kth.se/snack).

4. Conclusion

The system allows a person without specific computer skills to develop an interesting game for children with severe visual impairment very young and/or having additional troubles. The next step is to create a user friendly web repository where template designers can share ideas and templates. The presentation will show examples of templates and how to use the game generator.

Acknowledgements

The TiM project is funded by the European Commission (the contents of this paper is the sole responsibility of the authors an in no way represents the views of the European Commission or its services) on the program IST 2000 (FP5/IST/Systems and Services for the Citizen/Persons with special needs), under the reference
IST-2000-25298.

References

[1] Dominique Archambault. The TiM Project: Overview of results. In K. Miesenberger, J. Klaus, W. Zagler, and D. Burger, editors, Proc. ICCHP 2004 (9th International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs), volume 3118 of LNCS, pages 345-352, Paris, France, July 2004. Springer.

[2] Sstien Sablnd Dominique Archambault. Blindstation: a Game platform adapted to visually impaired children. In Ger Craddock, Lisa McCormack, Richard Reilly, and Harry Knops, editors, Assistive Technology Shaping the future, Proceedings of the AAATE 03 Conference, Dublin, Ireland, pages 232-236, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 2003. IOS Press.

[3] Dominique Archambault. THE TiM COMPUTER GAMES FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED CHILDREN. In CSUN Conference 2004.
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf/2004/proceedings/81.htm">http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf/2004/proceedings/81.htm


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