The NEC Foundation of America has awarded a $32,000 grant to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) "to support the dissemination and use of therapeutic video games to serve children with severe sensory and motor disabilities," according to NJIT's press release.

The website for NJIT's Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) says that:

The video game platform contains games with programmable graphics objects. Each game piece behaves in a preprogrammed fashion, following specified rules. These rules may alter movement pattern, changing shape, color or size and even disappearing altogether. Each game piece is capable of assessing its environment and calculating its distance from the nearest object in a specified direction.

The games will use a webcam to analyze player input, and also that this input will be judged on color rather than body movement:

A color detection algorithm for red green and blue markers has been developed to act as the user’s input. A colored marker can be anything the child can grasp, wear or attach to themselves like colored tape or a Velcro band.

Judging responses on color rather than body movement will make it easier for people with non-standard ways of moving to play.

According to director of the RERC Richard Foulds, PhD. “The game will improve neuro-plasticity through intensive and repetitive training." More than 50 partners will receive and test the software.

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk

Tera Kirk grew up in a small Nebraska town called Papillion. Although she has a nonverbal learning disability that affects her visual-spatial skills (among other things), she's always loved video games. Her first game system was a Commodore Vic-20, which her mom bought at a garage sale for $20. With this little computer Tera learned to write Mad Libs in BASIC, to play chess and to steal gold from Fort Knox.

But then a friend introduced her to the seedy underworld of the Mario brothers and she spent her saved-up birthday and Christmas money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Her mom didn't like the Nintendo at first, but The Legend of Zelda changed her mind. (When Tera got Zelda II: The Adventure of Link one Christmas, she suspected it was as much for her mother as for her).

Though she graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2002 and recently learned how to find the movie theater restroom by herself, Tera still loves video games. Far from being a brain-rotting waste of time, they've helped her practice spatial skills and discover new passions. Her love of games like Kid Icarus and The Battle of Olympus led to a degree in Classical Languages and Literatures. She thinks games have a place in discussions on disability and other cultural issues, and is excited to work with the like-minded staff at GameCritics.com.
Tera Kirk

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