The strength of collaborative games is that they distribute activities between players and encourage them to work together to achieve a common goal. They promote social interaction, cognitive development, and can even improve the quality of personal relationships. All of these benefits transfer directly to both children with disabilities and those without, and have the potential for impact that goes beyond the child and extends into the community.
The audience for 'Circle' (our collaborative gaming platform) are children with moderate-to-severe cognitive and/or physical disabilities who experience difficulty with activities and often lose out on the benefits of playing with their families and caregivers. Using human body communication (HBC), 'Circle' engages those with and without disabilities equally by normalizing the experience of play between them using touch as the primary input. Touch, the strongest sense at birth, is a basic human need and the primary way people bond with one another. However, for many along the moderate-to-severely disabled spectrum, touch is only ever experienced as an essential activity (e.g., bathing, feeding, and changing clothes). Our design intent is to magnify our players' physical expression through collaborative play.
Drawing inspiration from 'Wall Mounted Level', 'Circle' expands upon the act of touch, and through our team's research in HBC, we can distinguish between righthanded, lefthanded, and both-handed touch. These three discrete inputs provide the framework for a series of games and game mechanics designed by myself and our team under my supervision as well as research conducted in my classroom. Another reason for settling on three inputs was to keep our design footprint small for our target audience, knowing we could always scale up if desired by employing design strategies implicit in one-switch controllers.
In 'Circle', touch is translated into game input through a Bluetooth-Low-Energy module that wirelessly transmits the status of a General-Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) pin. When touch is detected and a conductive path is established the pin is set to a digital "1", otherwise the pin is set to a digital "0." These signals are captured by the iPad's game app via Bluetooth becoming input that sets the game in motion. In the case of 'Froggy & Friends' (see below), these discrete inputs rotate the main character clockwise, counter-clockwise, and perform a special action.
Since 2018, 'Circle' has won over $70,000 in grants that I have served as PI and Co-PI on. Our team has hired 9 student workers from Design, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science Engineering, and Nursing all of which I have helped mentor and supervise. We have also filed both a patent and a provisional patent and have secured collaborators within and outside of Ohio State.
Engineering Team Lead
Nursing Team Lead
Nursing Research and User Testing Assistant
Software Engineering Intern
Product Design Consulting
Illustration of the physical interactions that 'Circle' is designed to provoke through human body communications (HBC) and touch-based mechanics.
Illustration of how force sensitive resistors (FSR's) were used to provide three different inputs during our Phase 1 testing (see videos below).
A screenshot from "Froggy and Friends", the first game designed for our touch-based collaborative gaming platform.