There’s no question that technology has improved the lives of billions of people around the globe. With the advent of mobile technology, people who never had access to the wealth of information that the internet holds obtained it. Technology has democratized the world.
Although technology is hailed as a great equalizer, the world’s largest minority, people with disabilities, is often excluded from using consumer electronics. For people with physical disabilities, the interfaces which are required to use technology (remote controls, touch screens, game controllers, etc) are inaccessible. This means that people with disabilities are unable to participate in vocational, social, and recreational activities that people without disabilities enjoy.
Growing up close to someone with cerebral palsy, a co-founder at Bansen Labs, a startup based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, saw firsthand the challenges of living with a disability. It was difficult to find activities they could engage in together, so socially it was very difficult. His friend loved video games, for example, but the console controllers weren’t accessible to him. Although there were many assistive controllers available, it was impossible to mix and match the technology to fit the unique and diverse needs of people with disabilities. Clearly a solution was needed.
With the advent of 3D printing, there have been a lot of new developments in the world of accessible gaming. 3D printers make it easier for people with disabilities to modify game controllers. One maker modified an xbox controller for his friend who could not use his left hand to play games. He added extended buttons so that his friend’s right hand could reach buttons on the left side of the controller. Most of the designs makers use to modify game controllers are open source, so anyone who has access to a 3D printer can modify their controller! For those that don’t have access to a 3D printer, they can submit a request to Caleb Kraft, at The Controller Project. Caleb dedicates his free time to create video game controllers for people with disabilities.
But what if we didn’t need to create new controllers or modify standard controllers, what if people with disabilities could use the technology that we already have–our buddy buttons, our wheelchair joysticks, and our foot pedals–to play the video games we want to play?
Xogo, scheduled for release in 2017, will make this possible. Xogo is an adapter that allows people with disabilities to use their own assistive technology as controllers for their video game consoles and all other consumer electronics (think cable boxes, home controls, even remote controlled helicopters!). A few Xogo prototypes are in the hands of consumers, and the Xogo team has tested their adapter at various hospitals around the country.
The Xogo team is excited to bring access, social inclusion, and rehabilitation to the 1 billion people worldwide who have a disability. If you are interested in receiving updates and learning about how you can be one of the first people to use Xogo, sign up for their email list here.