Braille Wheel of Fortune

About two years ago, I converted Blindfold Spin And Solve – a variant of Wheel of Fortune – into a braille game.  It’s now going to be featured in a book.

braille alphabet

In braille, there are 6 dot positions, where each letter corresponds to a different combination of dots.  For example, the letter “A” is dot position 1, and the letter “R” is dot positions 1,2,3 and 5.  Because braille takes up much more space than printed letters, books may be 5 to 10 times as large.

To solve that, contracted braille offers a shorthand for commonly used words or word fragments.  The single word “AF”, represented by the braille dots for the letter “A” followed by the braille dots for the letter “F” translates to the word “AFTER”.  The braille dots 1,2,3,4 and 6 translates to the fragment “AND”, which can be used in the word CANDY.  The contracted braille for CANDY is: dots 1,4 for the letter “C”, dots 1,2,3,4,6 for the fragment “AND” and the dots 1,3,4,5,6 for the letter “Y”.

As you swipe from word to word, the game tells you how many letters in the uncontracted word, and how many cells in the contracted form. The contracted form of the word “CANDY” is the letter C, the dot pattern for the fragment “AND”, and the letter Y.  As you swipe on the word CANDY, the game tells you the contracted form has 3 cells, and the uncontracted form has 5 letters.

The game also gives you hints to make it easier.  If you guess a letter that’s not in the contracted word, but is in the uncontracted word, it tells you.  With the contracted form of the word “CANDY”, if you guess the letter “N”, the game tells you that the letter “N” is in the uncontracted form of the word, but it’s not in the puzzle.

I’ve been collaborating with Anna Dresner to improve ithe game; she’s writing a book on educational apps and will be mentioning several of the Blindfold Games, including Braille Spin and Solve.

To download the game, tap here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/braille-spin-and-solve/id1147298251?mt=8

 

 

 

 

 

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Blindfold Bopping

In many schools for the blind, you’ll often find the Bop-It toy out on a table, or in a closet.

Original Bop-It Toy

The Bop-It toy is an audio game where you follow the commands spoken by the toy – such as pulling a handle, twisting a crank, spinning a wheel or toggling a switch – with game pace speeding up as the you play.

While there’s already an accessible game in the app store based on the Bop-It toy, I had a lot of requests from teachers of the blind to build a Bop-It game.  They wanted a game to enable blind people to learn and practice  iPhone and iPad gestures.

Blindfold Bop starts out with easy mode where you are told to make one gesture every 20 seconds, for a total of 5 gestures.  The gestures are simple: tap with 1 finger, tap with 2 fingers, swipe in any direction, or shake the phone.  You get one point for each correct gesture, and the game is over after 3 mistakes.    If you didn’t make 3 mistakes, you move to the  next level, where the gestures come a little faster, about every 15 seconds, and you get two points for each correct gesture.  Each level is a little faster than the prior, and the points go up.

Once you get good at the easy mode, medium mode tests you on gestures such as tap, tap with 2 fingers, swipe up, swipe down, swipe left, swipe right and shake.  These are the most common gestures to control many apps, and performing well in Blindfold Bop translates to using the iPhone very effectively.

Hard mode trains you to perfect more 2 finger gestures such as swiping left and right with 2 fingers, and making a twisting motion.  Twisting is placing your thumb and forefinger on the phone, and twisting the two fingers in a circle, either clockwise or counter-clockwise.  The twist gesture is identical to operating the iPhone rotor – a key part of iPhone accessibility.  Many actions, such as copying and pasting are done with the rotor.

Similar to Blindfold Simon, Blindfold Bop lets you compete with another player, by passing the phone back and forth.  First you complete a level, then your friend completes that level, until one of you makes 3 mistakes.

Thanks to all the Blindfold Bop testers, who gave me ideas on which gestures to include in each level, and how to make the game more challenging.

To download Blindfold Bop, tap here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-bop/id1272873004?mt=8

 

 

 

 

Blindfold TV Game Shows

One of the difficulties in a building TV Game Show game based on trivia  (such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire) is finding trivia questions.  There are commercial vendors who sell questions, but they cost about $1 per question (about $1000 for 1000 questions).  For games that are used by sighted people, recouping that investment is probably easy.  However, Blindfold Games appeal only to people with visual impairments, so the audience is much smaller, and recouping several thousand dollars to pay for the games is almost impossible.

Instead, I rely on “open source” questions – trivia questions that are in the “public domain” and are free to use.  Unfortunately, these questions comes with the correct answer, but not a set of related wrong answers.

That means you would have to type, or dictate, the correct answer, and you would have to spell it perfectly.  Consider the question “Who sketched a design for a helicopter hundreds of years ago”.   You might answer “Leonardo de Vinci” or “Leanardo de Vinci” or “Lenardo Vince”.  Most people aren’t perfect spellers, so the game needs a way to know if something is slightly misspelled.

This problem was solved by Vladmir Levenshtein in 1965, who came up with a formula to compute the distance between two words.  The distance scores for the above three answers are 1, 2 and 5 respectively.  Any distance under 8 is usually considered a close enough answer.

The problem gets a little more complex if the answer has more than one word.  In this example, while you would be correct if you said “da Vinci” or “Leonardo”, the distance score is in the range of 15 to 20, which would make your wrong.

To solve that problem, some of the Blindfold TV Game Show games will tell you how many letters or words are in the answer.  Knowing there are three words in the answer, some variant of “Leonardo da Vinci” would be correct.  Giving an answer such as “Christopher de Columbus”, which also has three words, scores 19, making it wrong.

Now that this problem is solvable, I can begin building more TV Game Show games.

To get Blindfold Trivia Match, similar to Jeopardy, click here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-trivia-match/id1162281244?mt=8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blindfold Playing with Pitch

When translating from a video game to an audio game, there aren’t a lot of options to present all the information you need to play the game.

audio mixer console

A game can make different types of sounds, or can tell you what’s going on, or when you wear headphones, can position the sound somewhere between your ears.

For most games, having more than about 6 or 7 sounds is excessive and makes the game too complex.  In a fast-paced game,  sounds can only be one-quarter to one-half second long;  playing several sounds at once is too confusing.

Speaking phrases, like the score, or the cards you are holding in your hand, is easy, but most phrases take 2 to 5 seconds to speak.  That’s fine for slow games, but too long for action games.

Giving you auditory positioning information via headphones, as in Blindfold Pong, Blindfold Racer and Blindfold Hopper, is useful, but most people don’t like to play games with headphones or earbuds.

As I was creating a baseball game, I needed a way indicate how far the ball was from your bat, so you could hit the ball just as it got to your bat.  I started experimenting with modifying pitch of a sound.  As the ball traveled from the pitcher to you, the pitch of the ball sound got higher and higher.

I tried different ball sounds: simple notes (like A flat), a rattling sound, and a ball rolling on a table sound.  None of them sounded convincing as the pitch changed.  I tried some “dual tone multi frequency” sounds – the same as you hear on a phone – and concluded that the tone for digit nine sounded good at slow, medium and fast pitch.

I was even able to layer other sounds – high frequency beeps – on top of the varying pitch ball sound, to tell you when the ball was coming close to your bat, when it was in the right spot to swing, and when it had traveled past your bat.

I’ll use the pitch method for some other games I’m building, including a variation of Flappy Bird.  More about both baseball game and the flappy bird game in another blog.

To download the baseball game called Blindfold Home Run Derby, tap here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-home-run-derby/id1231442686?mt=8

 

 

Blind And Beyond Sponsorship

We just started sponsoring the Blind and Beyond Radio Show: a show for people interested in learning about the world of the visually impaired, as well as the delights and challenges of how they live successful and productive lives.  They talk to people from all over the world as they share their life experiences.

The show is on every Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern Time on WOKB 1680 AM radio
in Orlando, Florida and can be heard on the web at wokbradio.com.   You can listen on the Victor Reader Stream through the internet radio, or on your smart phone via the TuneIn Radio App. Or call 518-712-0057 and listen to the show live right from your phone without using any app.

Here’s a quick audio clip from the show:

 

Or tap here:

http://qormagic.com/blogsounds/BlindAndBeyond-Aug27.mp3

 

 

Blindfold Clues

After creating a Blindfold version of Monopoly, requests starting pouring in for other board games.  People wanted board games such as Life, Scrabble, Risk, Sorry, Trouble, and Clue. I remember playing Clue when I was a kid, so I tackled that one first.

profile of sherlock holmes shadow

Clue, originally called Cluedo, is a murder mystery game for three to six players, devised by Anthony Pratt from Birmingham, England.  The object of the game is to determine who murdered the game’s victim, where the crime took place, and which weapon was used. Each player assumes the role of one of the six suspects, and attempts to deduce the correct answer by strategically moving around a game board representing the rooms of a mansion and collecting clues about the circumstances of the murder from the other players.

To play the game, you spin the dice, then move your token on game board.  Most rooms are separated from each other by about 4 to 10 spots.  When you land in a room, you can accuse the killer by specifying the killer’s name, room and the weapon.  If you are correct, you win; if you are wrong, you lose the game.  If you decide not to accuse, then you can make an suggestion based on the room you are in.  For example, if you are in the kitchen, you can suggest that it was Mr. Green in the kitchen with a knife.  If any player has proof your suggestion is wrong, they’ll show it to you.  Using that information, you collect clues until you know all about the murder.

Clue can get quite complex, so I had to simplify several features for Blindfold Clues.  Firstly, instead of spinning dice to determine your move, at the start of your turn, you are can move to any room that’s connected you the room you’re in.  Not only does that speed up the game, it makes it much more fun.

Blindfold Clues gives you several ways to keep track of clues, so you don’t need to remember everything.  There’s a clues screen that lets you record notes to yourself, such as the suspicions you have.  Each time you learn another clue, you have some suggestions you want to test out in the future, you can record them in that screen.

There’s a second screen that lets you indicate which card – murderer, weapon or room – has been proved true, false or is still unknown.  And for those who want to make the game easy, there’s a third screen that records each of the suggestions in the game, and their outcomes.

You can change your opponent’s skill from beginner to average to good to expert.  As your skills improve, you compete with better players.  The average game lasts about a half-hour.

You can download the game here:

https://itunes.apple.com/US/app/id1219409058?mt=8

 

 

 

Blindfold Words From Words

After building the word game Blindfold Unscramble, I starting hearing from people who wanted more games based on letter scrambling.  Blindfold Unscramble is a simple game: it scrambles the letters in a word, and you have to unscramble it.  Hence the word “blindfold” might be scrambled as “fdidbolnl”.

word cubes

This lead to a game called Blindfold Words From Words: given a word, how many words can you create from those letters.  For example,  if the master word is “blindfold”, you can create the words including blind, fold, bind, old, find, oil, foil, din, and so on.  You get 3 points for a 3 letter word, 4 points for a 4 letter word, and so on.

Prior to starting the game, it tells you how many possible words can be created.  This was an easy game to build, but it I couldn’t figure out a good way to determine all possible words.

One way to solve this problem is to build each word from the available letters in the master word and then checking that the word exists can take a long time.  With the master word “blindfold”, which has 9 letters, to find all of the 3 letter words, you need to test 9 times 9 time 9 combinations, or 729 combinations.   To find all of the 4 letter words, you need to test about 7,000 combinations.  To find all of the 5 letter words, you need to test abut 60,000 combinations.  To find all of the 6 letter words, you need to test 531,000 combinations.  As you can see, the choices go up exponentially as the word gets longer.  Looking for all 9 letter combinations would analyze 400 million possibilities.

A faster way to solve this is to check every word in the dictionary, and see if it can be built from the letters in the master word.  The Blindfold Words From Words dictionary contains about 80,000 words.  That means that only 80,000 possibilities need be tested regardless of the length of the initial word.  It takes only a few seconds for the average iPhone to process that many words.

To make it even faster, ignores words from the dictionary that do not contain the letters in the master word.  For example, since the word “blindfold” does not contain letters such as “c”, “g”, “q” and “z”, all words with those letters are ignored.  That reduced the time to find all words to about one tenth of a second.

Over the months since the game was released, I’ve added several options to make game play faster.  You can review your words alphabetically, or in the order you found them, and at the end of the game, you can see either all the words, or just the words you’ve found, or just the words that you couldn’t find.  Like the other Blindfold Word Games, it’s fun, fast paced, and helps you improve your vocabulary.

To download Blindfold Words From Words, click here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-words-from-words/id1200248394?mt=8

Blindfold Games in GLASS

Theresa Rice of the Georgia Libraries for Statewide Accessible Services (GLASS) contacted me a few weeks ago to include Blindfold Games in their newsletter.

cropped-cropped-GLASS-site-logo940-1981

As she told me, “I have Blindfold Games installed on our iPad to show to children’s medical services and physical rehab units. I also visit all manner of support groups and Blindfold Games are a great little ‘something extra’ I can provide. Thanks again for Blindfold Games and best of luck going forward with your work.”

Here’s the excerpt from the newsletter;

A visit to Apple’s App Store will bring up multiple titles from Blindfold Games. Their audio-based games are created for players with visual impairments but fun for anyone. The wizard behind the company is Marty Schultz.

In 2014, Schultz taught programming to middle school youngsters, all eager to recreate hugely popular games. But he didn’t see the point of doing what had been done before. That’s when inspiration struck. Games for players who are blind presented a new approach to game design, accessing an eager yet underserved demographic.

Voila! Blindfold Racer was born.

“I don’t think it’s simply that the games exist and are accessible that makes the games popular,” says Schultz. “It’s that the testers, who are all visually impaired, as well as the fans, tell me how game(s) should be enhanced, and I listen.”

The game count — which includes everything from Blindfold Euchre to Blindfold Air Hockey to Blindfold Feud (think Family Feud) — is 50+ and growing. Download any of the games for free in the App Store.

To get a list of Blindfold Games, visit here:

https://blindfoldgames.org/apps-we-built/

For more info on GLASS, visit here:

http://georgialibraries.org/glass/

 

Blindfold Tic Tac Toe: Teaching Grid Concepts

Creative educational apps help students learn core concepts. Blindfold 3D Tic Tac Toe was created specifically to provide students with visual impairments and blindnesss an opportunity to practice digital grid concepts through a familiar game. In this iOS game, the Tic Tac Toe board is basically a grid; the rows and columns are announced so that the player can identify where the red and black checkers (“x” and “o”) are located.

Students who are visually impaired or blind often struggle with spatial concepts, which can impact math skills and orientation and mobility skills. Both of these are highly spatial in nature. Traditionally, students learn many spatial concepts through hands-on activities and tactual graphs and maps. In our digital classrooms, once a student understands the basic concept, the next step is to able to glean the same information from digital materials. Transitioning to digital math materials – specifically grids – was discussed In a previous Paths to Technology post, Digital Transitions #2: Math Grid Activities.

For students who are learning about grids, start by playing a tactile version of Tic Tac Toe. You can purchase tactile Tic Tac Toe games in many stores – including dollar stores – or you can easily create your own Tic Tac Toe boards using raised lines or Wikki Stycks and simple objects such as checkers, counting bears, or even candy pieces! The Tic Tac Toe board is a simple 3 X 3 grid. When using a tactile Tic Tac Toe board, be sure to name the grid columns and rows the same as the digital Blindfold Tic Tac Toe board. Blindfold Tic Tac Toe game is similar to a Coordinte Grid with the Columns A, B, and C, and the rows  are 1, 2, and 3, starting from the ‘orgin’ in the bottom left corner.

Teacher Hint: If appropriate, use math terms, such as X axis (Columns) and Y Axis (Rows), Coordinate Grid, and Origin (where the X and Y axis intersect in the bottom left corner of the grid). With Blindfold Tic Tac Toe, ‘A,1’ is the origin and is located at the bottom left corner of the grid. It is important that students understand that some grids start the numbers and letters in the top, left corner; Coordinate Grids start the numbers and letters in the bottom, left corner.

Coordinate Grid with the the numbering starting at the Origin (bottom left corner); Y and X axis both run 1 - 6.

To play Blindfold’s traditional (1 level) Tic Tac Toe game, select ‘Flat Board, Practice’. While there is a visual Tic Tac Toe board available, Blindfold games are designed to be audio games. This game has built-in audio and can be played with or without VoiceOver. Be sure to listen to the instructions as the gestures used to play the game may vary slightly from the typical gestures used with VoiceOver. For detailed instructions, select ‘Help’. Level 2 and level 3 are 3D Tic Toc Toe games.

Blindfold 3D Tic Tac Toe is a mental game of the classic Tic Tac Toe – with a twist!  Instead of one board, there are three levels, A, B and C (bottom, middle and top). The object of the game is to place three checkers in a line. The line can be all on one level or across all three levels!

Game Instructions

Blindfold Games are played in Portrait Mode – be sure to turn the iPad to Portrait Mode. Students play against the computer and always go first. Student checkers are always red and the computer’s checkers are black. The cursor always begins in A,1. If playing 3D Tic Tac Toe, the cursor begins in the Bottom Level A, Column A, Row 1. As the student makes a move, the game announces his/her location by Column then Row.

  • Swipe one finger up, down, right or left to navigate around the grid
  • Swipe two fingers up or down to move between levels
  • One finger double tap to place your red checker in a spot
  • Three fingers swipe up to go back to the previous screen

Teacher Hint:  You must swipe right, left, up or down; the screen does not react when you drag your finger.

To download the game, press here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-3-d-tic-tac-toe/id1231870210?mt=8

 

 

 

Blindfold Games: Got a story?

Many people contacted me about Stuart Beveridge’s experience with the boy he helped with Blindfold Games, and asked if the games have helped any other people.

I’ve blogged about a few of them over the past 4 years; here’s one I remember well:

Now that I have mastered most of your bowling game, I need to tell you a story I think you will enjoy.  Your game is so life-like, and brings us the reallity of a live bowling alley.

I am totally blind, and I started bowling in 1966. I carried an average score of 136.  My high games were 148, and a 197. Other than that, I had the occasional game of 160.  I bowled until 1985, when I was in a terrible auto crash. It left me with a shattered left leg from the knee down.  I would never bowl again. I really missed the game.

Since I have your game, I can now relive my dream of bowling.  It was my favorite hobby.  Many thanks to you, for bringing us a lifetime product.  This game just works.  It is just wonderful to use my fingers to aim at the pins and get a strike, and then throw the same kind of throw, and get fewer pins.  I am so happy.

If you have a story you would like to share, please contact me: marty@blindfoldgames.org