A series of games to help children and young people with physical disabilities learn about the physical world is being piloted in a Dorset school.
The freely accessible games, created as a part of the FUN Project (Feeling the Unfelt: Assistive Technology accessible digital environments with haptic interface) was funded by Research England UK Research & Innovation (UKRI). The games have been created by Bournemouth University and Livability Victoria School in Poole to help children learn about the physical world through gameplay and electronic artificial sensation devices.
The FUN Project has helped to create educational computer games which help children with physical disabilities access game-based educational content and learn about the physical world – this includes understanding of spatial awareness; the properties of objects, such as those with solid boundaries; planning and problem solving; understanding 3D environments; using mirrors and more.
These games use haptic feedback through a specifically made electronic device which provides an additional cue helping children and young people to learn about the environment around them in ways that they may not otherwise be able to do.
Dr Vedad Hulusic is Deputy Head of the Department of Creative Technology at Bournemouth University and is leading the research project. He said, “I am truly grateful to be able to lead such a project in which the cutting-edge technology has been used to enable children with physical disabilities to use digital educational content. We have created a series of fun and exciting educational mini games that are accessible to children through various access methods. Not only that the children can play these games, but they can create and share levels with their peers, which is something rather unique and highly empowering.”
One of the teachers at Livability Victoria School said, “The students involved whom I work with enjoyed the sessions. It was something that enhanced their self-esteem.”
Games utilise the child’s preferred access method, from touchscreen devices, joysticks, keyboard and mouse, or eye tracker, to any custom, personal input devices they might be using, to move characters, balls or cars around a grid-based area to solve problems or complete tasks such as popping balloons, collecting fuel cans, or navigating mazes. When the playable item collides with a boundary or game object, the bespoke haptic device sends a tactile sensation to the child to re-enforce the in-game collision and help to engage the child in physical boundaries.
More information about BU’s work in assistive technology, and the FUN Project can be found at: https://sen-bu.co.uk/fun-project-about-basic/