Feelif Creator is an adapted tablet (currently a Samsung Galazy Tablet) with special accessible apps that combine haptics (vibrations), sounds, an embossed grid and text-to-speech using Voice Assistant. View the initial Paths to Technology Feelif Creator announcement post here. The Feelif team generously shared a pre-release version of Feelif Creator with Paths to Technology for hands-on review with students/educators and for additional feedback. Feelif will be publicly available on March 15th. I am very excited to share our experience with this wonderful resource!
The Feelif games available during this review were:
All of the Feelif games are fully accessible with the Voice Assistant screen reader. Note: Voice Assistant is the Galaxy’s built-in screen reader; this feature is called TalkBack on older models and operating systems. The Feelif games cover a wide variety of age groups and skills; games range from emerging braille games to graphing high school math equations. When appropriate, games can be played with one player or two players – providing opportunities for students to play these fun games with their peers.
Many of the Feelif games provide opportunities to help students transition from traditional tactile graphics to digital skills. The multi-sensory Feelif games are unique in that these digital games combine a mainstream Samsung tablet with haptics and embossed dots – providing some tactile support for touch screen devices! Traditionally, braille students are introduced to spatial concepts, using tactile graphics. Standard tablets are all auditory and do not provide tactile feedback. By combining simple haptic feedback and embossed dots with auditory sounds and screen reading information, Braille students have an easier transition to auditory-only digital materials. Feelif Creator games include numerous spatial games that teach foundation skills necessary for higher level graphics. These games include awareness of spatial relationships, grids and the unique ability to track lines. These foundation skills lead to the accessible ground-breaking Feelif Graphing games where students can explore previously graphed math equations, can create equations that are then graphed, and can draw their own graphs!
Feelif Gestures is an interactive tutorial that teaches the gestures used in the Feelif games. This is a great tool for students and educators to learn these gestures! Attached is the list of Feelif Gesture Commands.
There are three games under the Learn Braille section. These games use the embossed braille cells at the top of the screen. These braille cells are intentionally larger than normal braille dots, to help little fingers feel and select the individual dots and to focus on the spatial relationships of these dots.
The Learn Braille Alphabet Game displays the braille letters in ABC order. The player will drag his fingertip across one dot in the braille cell at a time. If the dot is active (part of the specific braille letter), the dot will vibrate and a hum sound is heard. When an activated dot is first touched, Voice Assistant will announce the braille letter. Dots that are not active will remain quiet and still. A two-finger swipe left or right will scroll to the next or previous screen of letters.
Find Missing Dot Game displays braille cells with five dots activated in each cell at the top of the screen. The player drags his finger across one dot in the braille cell at a time. If the dot is activated, it will vibrate and a hum sound is heard. One dot in each cell is not activated. The player finds the inactive dot and double taps on it. When double-tapping on the correct dot, a motivating reward sound is heard.
Copy Braille Characters Game displays a braille letter in the first cell which students duplicate in the second cell. When touching the first cell, the letter is announced and the activated individual dots vibrate and hum as the student drags his fingers across the individual dots. The student then moves to the second cell and double taps on the correct dots to duplicate the letter.
Write Braille Characters Game has inactive braille dots. When the braille cell is touched, Voice Assistant announces the desired letter. The player locates each desired dot and double taps on the dot to activate it. When all the correct dots – and only the correct dots – are activated, the player hears a motivating reward sound.
A number of preschool Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) had the opportunity to try Feelif Creator; these TVIs loved the braille games! The haptic vibration provides unique feedback of isolated dot positions, encouraging emerging braille students to focus on individual dots and the critical spatial relationships between each dot. The gentle vibrations also help students to develop good finger sensitivity required to feel braille dots. For some players, double tapping on one dot was a bit challenging initially (some players moved their finger slightly to another dot while double tapping); however, students quickly learned to perfect their double tapping skills.
Teacher Hint: When double tapping, students should hover their hand slightly above the desired dot and only raise and lower the index finger using a very small movement to create the double tap gesture. This small movement will help the student to tap twice on the same dot and not inadvertently tap on a second dot.
Emerging braille readers – of all ages – enjoyed this game!
This game places a number of farm animals randomly around the screen. The player is asked to find specific animals (sheep, cows, chickens, pigs, and horses). The player drags his finger around the screen to locate the animals; when his finger touches an animal, the corresponding animal sound is made, vibrations are felt, and a hum sound is heard. If the player has found the correct type of animal, he double taps on the animal. The player should be encouraged to remember the spatial location of the various animals so that he can quickly find a specific animal again when asked.
Students of all ages and abilities thoroughly enjoyed this game! Educators liked how students learned to pay attention to the spatial location of each animal and to recall that information when asked to find that specific type of animal. Students also had the opportunity to learn to drag the screen in an organized manner in order to efficiently find the animals.
This game enables students to create digital drawings – including students with no vision! Students touch and hold a color button at the top of the screen with one hand and draw on the screen using the index finger of the other hand. Each color has an associated sound: red is a violin, green is lower piano sounds and yellow is higher piano sounds. (Note: Feelif has updated the color options to include blue; the instruments associated with each color may have changed as well.) As students draw, they hear the sound and feel the vibration of the dots. Lines drawn at the bottom of the page have lower tones than lines drawn at the top of the page. (Note: The sounds have also been updated since the version used in this review.) The embossed dots help students to draw in a straight line. When finished drawing, the student can drag his finger around the screen – when he drags over a line, he hears the associated sound and feels the vibration. This enables him to follow the lines in the drawing. There is also an erase button and a delete image button.
Note: There is a left-handed mode for Feelif Draw game.
Students with low vision and students with no vision were very intrigued with the drawing game! They were fascinated by the sounds and the ability to re-trace their drawings using sounds and vibrations. Note: Circles (curving lines) come out as slightly zig-zagged curves. Students with no vision tended to draw random lines; rather than objects. A few of the younger students struggled with holding the color button with one hand while drawing with the other hand; a teacher assisted by pressing the desired color while the student drew. If more time allowed, it would be interesting to see if students can use Feelif Draw to learn to write letters in their name?
One shape appears on the screen at a time. Voice Assistant announces the shape and then the player drags his finger to trace the shape. Voice Assistant announces pertinent information – such as “bottom right corner” – as the player drags his finger. This alerts the player to make a change in direction. When the player follows the line correctly, he will hear piano sounds (pitches change as he moves up/down or right/left) and he will feel vibrations. If the player is off the line, the screen is quiet and still. If the player correctly traces the entire shape, Voice Assistant provides feedback such as, “Great job! You found the square!” Shapes become progressively more challenging as complex shapes are introduced.
After a little instruction, most students learned the process of how to follow a line in order to trace the shape. While a fun game in itself, this game provides important foundation skills for more complex games such as the Feelif Graphing games. Feelif Shape is an innovative way to teach shapes on a digital platform; being able to “feel” the shape on a flat touch screen is amazing! There are numerous possibilities of how this game can be expanded.
This is the classic sound matching game. Players can choose easy (4 pairs), medium (6 pairs) and hard levels (8 pairs). The following sound categories are available: Vehicles, farm animals, kitchen sounds, jungle, forest, ocean, insects, birds, musical instruments, funny sounds, and weather. The Memory game labels each square with a number, starting with the top left square. Example: The easy game level has two rows by four columns; the squares are numbered 1 – 8.
This is a popular game loved by all students for all the students! Educators liked that this game as it teaches a variety of skills, including matching, categories, spatial memory, and more.
This classic game of Tic Tac Toe has the option of one or two players, and easy, medium, hard, and unbeatable levels. Feelif Tic Tac Toe (and the rest of the Feelif grid-type games) are set up in a grid-like format, rows are labeled with letters (A, B, C) and the columns are labeled with numbers (1, 2, 3). These games provide opportunities for students use letters and numbers to understand the spatial relationships within digital grids.
Fun digital version of Tic Tac Toe that provides practice of squares laid out in a simple 3×3 grid. Players have the option of choosing fun symbol such as a horse instead of a “x”.
This classic game of Connect 4 has the option of one or two players and easy, medium and hard levels. Players can also select a fun symbol.
This digital version of Connect 4 encourages players to look for and remember numerous spatial relationships as players try to keep track of plays in squares in a 6×7 grid. Remember, 4 plays in a row wins – plays can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Players can drag their finger around the grid to prompt their memory of plays; however, the advanced player remembers and anticipates plays mentally!
This classic Battleship game uses a 6×6 grid. The game incorporates fun sounds such as a bomb splashing into water.
Another fun game that subtly teaches grid skills, spatial relationships, mental mapping and more!
Several of the basic Feelif games provide foundation skills required to use Feelif Graphs. The Feelif graphing games provide a solid step toward making digital graphs accessible for students who are blind. Graphs concepts should continue to be taught with traditional tactile graphics in order for students who are blind to fully understand graphing concepts. However, as schools transition to digital resources and online assessments, student do need to be able to understand and create digital math equation graphics. Students who are braille readers do need accessible digital math materials; Feelif Graphs is a new, fully accessible digital graphing tool!
Feel Typical Functions are prepared graph equations. Voice Assistant names the math equation. Displayed on the screen are the horizontal and vertical axis which intersect in the middle of the screen along with the graphed equation lines. The student should systematically drag his finger across the screen to locate the lines. When the student’s finger is on the axis, Voice Assistant names the axis, the axis vibrates and a piano sound is heard. The student can follow the axis line by following the sound hints, vibrations and the embossed dots – the embossed dots are very helpful in aiding the student to trace in a straight line. When the student drags his finger on the graphed line, Voice Assistant announces the math equation of that line. Example: “Function y equals absolute value x.” The student can follow that line using the haptic feedback, embossed dots, and auditory piano sounds. Voice Assistant announces when the line crosses the axis and if appropriate announces when the line crosses the Origin. In this example equation, the equation line is in the shape of a “v” with the bottom of the “v” on the Origin. A variety of prepared math equation are provided.
The Graphing Video 1: Feel Typical Functions below demonstrates how students can explore these the graphed equations. This video includes hints on how to teach students to use these accessible digital graphs.
Feel Your Function is a way for a student to input his own math equation which, when confirmed, is automatically graphed. If the equation does not fit on the graph, activate the auto scaled button to change the coordinate system so that graph will appear on the screen. Graphs can be saved, marked as favorites and reviewed again later.
The Graphing Video #2 below demonstrates how students can input a math equation which will then automatically be graphed for them.
Test Your Knowledge enables students to input the desired math equation on the input screen. When the equation is confirmed, students can draw their equation on the screen with the axis. Yes – a blind student can independently draw his/her own math equation on a tablet – the equation appears visually and is fully accessible! Student holds the Trace button then draw the desired line. If drawn correctly, Voice Assistant will announce your success. You can also select individual points with a double tap to help you with orientation on the screen. This preselected points which are part of the function, do not disappear if you draw the function incorrectly.
In this graphing app, the student must first input the math equation. After the student draws the math equation, the app will indicate if the student drew the equation correctly.
NOTE: Currently, when inputting a math equation, you must include all symbols. Example: 2x+3 is inputted as 2*x+3 (you must add the ‘times’ symbol between the 2 and the x).
The Feelif Graph games are a wonderful combination of sensory tools (sounds, haptics and embossed dots) used to convey graphic information on a touch screen tablet. This is a unique way for students who are blind to be able to access digital graphs and to draw their own graph. This is the first time I have seen a way for a student with visual impairments to draw his own digital graph – and be able to interact with the graph he has drawn. The accessibility of these graphs is amazing and there is incredible potential for completing graphing assignments independently using this tool. The next step to integrate this graphing tool fully into the classroom, a student will need to be able to name the graph and share the graph with his classroom teacher.
The graphing games are progressive: students are introduced to graphed math equations in the first game, can write an equation and have the equation graphed for them in the second game, and students can draw their own graph in the third game. I do suggest adding an interactive tutorial game starting with locating (and then creating) a point on the graph, finding a line on the graph, etc. as the fully featured math equations content may be too complex when initially introducing digital graphs. The Feelif Drawing game and the Feelif Shape game build critical concepts that are used in the graphing apps. (More on these concepts in a future post.)
The concept of using multi-sensory information along with a screen reader has made the Feelif games more accessible than a tablet with only a screen reader. This multi-sensory approach helps to bridge the gap between traditional paper tactile educational materials and standard digital educational materials. Currently, refreshable braille displays are only available as a single line tactile device and are not capable of displaying graphs and other graphics that require multi-lines. The Feelif games have embraced the full digital screen and enhanced the screen with haptics, embossed dots, and auditory sounds, providing additional information useful for students with visual impairments. The Feelif games have been designed specifically for students with visual impairments – with a focus on making the games fully accessible and motivating. These games can be used to teach a variety of educational skills and tech skills. Feelif Creator has combined innovative tools to make ground-breaking apps – especially the graphing games – accessible for students who are blind!
The tactile overlay with the embossed dots do serve an important function for the Feelif games. However, the embossed dots overlay does make it challenging when the student wants to use the Samsung tablet for mainstream tasks, such as emailing, writing documents and doing Internet searches. For students with functional vision, the dots distort the text in mainstream apps. When using the tablet for longer periods of time, swiping or dragging across the embossed dots can make the finger tips very sensitive (or for some students, desensitizes the finger tips). My suggestion would be to come up with a system that allows the embossed dots to easily be placed on the tablet’s screen or removed from the screen.
While most of the current Feelif games are well explained and easy to learn, an interactive tutorial with easy content would be beneficial for the ground-breaking Feelif Graphing games.
There are endless possibilities for additional educational Feelif games. The Feelif team is working hard to create additional games and I am looking forward to trying these future games!
By Diane Brauner