Perkins collaborating on mobile audio games for people who are blind

A student uses a mobile device to play accessible games.

Mobile games designed specifically for the blind community are hitting the App Store and gaining traction at Perkins.

November 21, 2014

Someone walking by the Grousbeck Center for Students & Technology the night of November 12 might have been puzzled by the animal noises emanating from the common area, mixed with the sound of engines accelerating.

If they peeked inside they would have found members of the Perkins Technology Club engrossed in the latest mobile gaming app – Blindfold Racer, which uses sounds to guide racecar drivers around a course riddled with obstacles. Instead of avoiding inanimate objects, like boulders or trees, players must steer their virtual cars around an assortment of mooing, crowing and oinking barnyard animals. Their mobile device acts as a steering wheel.

“If you hear the rooster on the left, then you know you have to go this way to avoid it,” said Perkins student C-Jay, gesturing to the left. “If you hear it in both ears that means you’re about to hit it. Then you have to turn left or right – not good. I went, like, right over it.”  He snapped his fingers to simulate the crash.

Blindfold Racer is one of two mobile gaming apps that will be released by Perkins Products as part of a new foray into gaming products that reinforce auditory, motor and memory skills. The other is Sudoku, a popular puzzle game in which numbers are arranged in a grid. Both were built specifically for people who are blind, setting them apart from apps that were originally designed for sighted users, and then adapted to be accessible.

“It’s a different mindset,” said app creator Marty Schultz. “When you’re building an audio game, you no longer have to worry about the constraints of the size of the phone; the playing field is your brain – not the screen.”

Blindfold Racer currently has 60 levels, each with varying degrees of complexity. The enhanced Perkins version, scheduled for January release, will have additional levels and the opportunity to get competitive through a website portal where registered users can record their scores and race against other players. With Sudoku, teachers using the app to teach math skills can log into the portal to track their students’ progress.

Mobile gaming for people who are blind is still relatively unexplored terrain – Schultz estimates only about 40 audio games currently exist. That was part of the appeal for Perkins Products Director Joe Martini, who has been working closely with Schultz to develop the Perkins version of both games.

“It’s new and it’s innovative,” Martini said. “We want to engage our users over a broad spectrum of technology – and that includes gaming.”

Both games are available for free at Apple’s App Store for iOS devices including the iPhone and iPad.