Students make Kinect wc-accessible

8720431085_6df84bf2b0_nVideo games have long been a favorite of people with disabilities. They allow us to be as physical as we would love to be in real life. But when Microsoft’s Kinect was released a few years ago, the disabled community was angry, and for good reason – it couldn’t recognize wheelchair-users.

You need to be able to stand up for the system to recognize you (this is because the camera for the system has to be mounted higher up on the wall and pointed down at the players). Of course people got angry (even able-bodied lazy people who wanted to play sitting on the couch).

But over the years, people with disabilities have found some clever fixes. Some have lowered the camera with success or some have figured out if they got out of their wheelchairs and played on their knees, Kinect could recognize them. So if you wanted to work at it, it was still ‘sort of ‘possible to play the system. Not quite ideal.

And even though there are a few games like Fruit Ninja and Just Dance 3 that can recognize chair-users better than Kinect’s other games, it was all sort of just bad (with wheelers preferring the Wii big time). However…. It looks like Kinect’s reputation may finally change thanks to a new research project helmed by Kathrin Greling, a Ph.D. student at the University of Saskatchewan.

This month she unveiled her “Kinect Wheels” project at one of the coolest, conferences that must happen anywhere at any time, the Computer Human Unteraction Conference in Paris, France. What she’s been working on (during Saskatchewan’s long cold winters) is a modification that can be implemented into any current Kinect SDK game, which will allow the system to take into account the position and movements of the wheelchair (finally!).

In plain speak – she’s created a mod that you can use with any game so it will finally recognize you and your movements. How cool is that? Watch the video of her project here

And Kathrin must know someone personally with a disability, because the intended target for her modifications are adults and older people who use wheelchairs, giving them both an awesome exercise and entertainment outlet. Gotta love her heart.

Do you own a Kinect? Have you been able to figure out a way to play it? Or are you a Wii fan (or maybe another system entirely? I’m a PC-gamer myself, however the movement-sensor systems are becoming ever so more enticing. It would be great to see this project purchased by Microsoft and actually implemented into their games. Fingers (virtually) crossed.

- Read more about the “Kinect Wheels” research project

- Watch a video of the project

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