Blindfold Racer: VA Med Center, Miami

Pat, a parent of three children who attend Cushman School, was able to get volunteer visually disabled veterans at the Miami Veterans Administration Med Center to test the app.

The coordinator and I walked through a labyrinth of hallways in the building to arrive at a conference room where three veterans were waiting for us. Both had the look of cynicism on their face, and told me that they’ve never played on app game.

This photo shows the coordinator (on the left), with the two veterans:

The next two photos were taken after they were playing for about 45 minutes. You can see the smiles breaking through on their faces:

These veterans had some great suggestions, which we then spent the next few weeks doing. They were very critical of some of the voice intonations, so we fixed those voice recordings.


Blindfold Racer: It’s too hard to control

If you remember, to turn the car, you rotate the iPad left and right. To speed up, you tilt it forward (away from you). To slow down, you tilt it backwards (towards you). Sounds simple, no?

Well, after much testing, game players could not turn to the left and drive fast. It required twisting their hands to hold the iPad in a very uncomfortable manner. Back to the drawing board.

When holding the iPad or iPhone, your thumbs tend to hover around the center of the left and right edges of the screen. To make it easy, we let you speed up the car by tapping your right thumb on the right edge of the screen, and to slow down by tapping your left thumb on the left edge.

We tested it with children, and instead of tapping, then just pressed their thumb and held it for a few seconds. So we changed the game to respond to press-and-hold your left and right thumb. And we tested it again. This time, the children tapped their thumbs instead of tapping their thumbs.

Testing the game showed this type of contrary behavior quite often. For example, when children who have never steered a car are asked to turn the iPad left and right, they keep the iPad flat (parallel to the floor) and tilt up the left or right side. Adults, who have steered a car, turn the iPad like a steering wheel, keeping the iPad screen facing their body.

In each of these cases, we adjusted the app to work in all scenarios. Similarly, people rotate or turn the iPad different amounts to complete a turn. Some will turn it 90 degrees, some 60 degrees, some 120 degrees. The app learns about the game player and self-adjusts to accommodate what the game player means. During the tutorial, it learns what the game player will do for a “maximum turn”, and then computes what percent of a “maximum turn” when she is doing when turning the car, and then turns the car appropriately.

We experimented with another variant of the game – steering and driving like the real world. To understand the difference, look at these two pictures.

In the first, when you rotate the iPad, the car rotates, and when you straighten the iPad, the car goes straight again.

In the real world, when you start turning the wheel, the car turns to the right until the car is 90 degrees from its original position. Then you straighten out the wheel, but the car continues at 90 degrees from its initial direction. Likewise for a turn to the left:

Game players found real world steering was just too difficult, and they couldn’t figure out how much to turn to keep the car away from the fence.

Blindfold Racer: Lighthouse for the Blind, Broward

With all of the changes that the first group of visually impaired teens came up with, we were ready to test again.

This time we invited a group of students from Lighthouse for the Blind, Broward to the Cushman School on a Saturday, along with the participating students and their parents. Again, the teens loved the game. Here are some pictures:

The girl facing the camera in this photo was the one who said “I can’t wait to play against my sighted friends. I will so beat them!”.

One of the girls was deaf in one ear, and she wasn’t able to play the game. We haven’t figured out how to make the game accessible to some who can’t see and can only hear on one ear:

Like other groups who tested the game, the teens had some great suggestions, so we spent the next few weeks discussing and implementing them.