Scientists at Columbia University have developed a racing auditory display, or RAD, to enable gamers who are visually impaired to play the same types of racing games that sighted players can play with the same speed, control and excitement that sighted players experience. The audio-based interface, which a player can listen to using a standard pair of headphones, can be integrated by developers into almost any racing video game, making a popular genre of games equally accessible to people who are blind. While there are a number of games on the market suitable for the blind, many are loaded with competing sources of information that players must sift through, slowing down the fun of playing the game. Others are versions of popular games so simplified that a blind gamer does nothing more than follow orders. There has been a fundamental trade off between preserving a game’s full complexity and its pace when making it blind-accessible. This project builds on two distinct areas of research: building audio navigation systems and developing blind-accessible racing games and driver assistance systems. The RAD comprises two novel sonification techniques: a sound slider for understanding a car’s speed and trajectory on a racetrack and a turn indicator system for alerting players about upcoming turns well in advance of the actual turns. Together, these approaches enable players to understand aspects about the race and perform a wide variety of actions in a way that is not possible in current blind-accessible racing games.
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