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Being blind doesn't mean you can't play videogames

A videogame research project conducted at the University of Nevada has produced a new experimental game called VI Fit. The game was created to aid the visually impaired in keeping physically fit. "Lack of vision forms a significant barrier to participation in physical activity, and consequently children with visual impairments have much higher obesity rates and obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes," says project leader Eelke Folmer.

Calling this experiment a videogame isn’t entirely accurate considering that being optically challenged makes any kind of video entirely pointless; however, the game is based on current videogame technology (the Wii, to be precise). While VI Fit is modeled on Nintendo’s Wii Fit, Nintendo does not endorse the project in any way. VI Fit features two games – VI Bowling and VI Tennis – and both can be downloaded for free (opens in new tab). The game utilizes Wii remote controllers and a Windows PC with Bluetooth support. Players are instructed throughout the game with the use of both audio and vibrotactile (fancy-schmancy word for sound vibration) cues.

The project has been underway atCamp Abilities (opens in new tab)in New York and had 19 blind test subjects so far – 13 children and six adults. Even more interesting is that the project seems to be working. According to the group of scientific space-brains running the first tests, “levels of active energy expenditure… were high enough to be considered healthy.” In other words, people were actually up and moving around.

There’s no word on whether the VI Fit participants are actually enjoying themselves while they play these games, but you’ve got to give the game creators credit for innovation. So, what are your thoughts on “video” games for the sensory impaired? Give us your two cents in the comments section!

May 28, 2010

Jordan Baughman is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of GamesRadar and Gamer magazine. With a passion for video games and esports, Baughman has been covering the industry for years now, and even hopped the fence to work as a public relations coordinator for clients that include EA, Capcom, Namco, and more.