Kiwi app for the visually impaired scores global recognition

May 4, 2018

Kiwi app for the visually impaired scores global recognition

Members of the blind community enjoy the multi-player aspect of the popular app. Photo: Supplied.

A Kiwi-built app that allows visually impaired and blind people to play video games has been nominated for the 2018 Google Play awards.

The app, Audio Game Hub uses audio to allow blind and visually impaired users to play a range of video games, including archery and samurai tournaments.

AUT student and CEO of Sonnar Interactive Jarek Beksa said they have received great feedback from their users, but to be acknowledged by a tech giant like Google was a huge surprise.

“Google hand picks the nominees, so it was really random and a big surprise.”

Mr Beksa said he started the app after noticing a gap in the market for blind-accessible gaming.

With over 70,000 video games available, only 100 are accessible to visually impaired and blind people.

Mr Beksa felt inspired after speaking to a group of blind people, who told him that although they wished they could play video games, no one made them for the blind.

“Among the blind community, we feel very appreciated.”

Mr Beksa said it is the first set of games in the world to bridge the gap between sighted and non-sighted users, making it possible to play on the same terms with the same high quality experience.

“One man wrote to us and said he was able to play a game on the app with his sighted daughter and son. He said he had never imagined he’d be able to play video games with his kids.”

Eli Roper, a member of the blind community, is a huge fan of the app, especially the blind cricket category.

“The sound effects make the game sound just like the real thing.”

Roper’s sister Amy said the app has really benefitted Eli’s life, in terms of playing with his friends and using the app together when they can.

The app developers have teamed up with the Blind Foundation to continue to grow the popular app.

Blind Foundation strategic relations manager Neil Jarvis said the app is a fresh, forward thinking approach for gaming development.

“Accessibility is too often considered a secondary factor, so the Audio Game Hub really shows what is possible to other developers out there.”

Sonnar Interactive and the Blind Foundation are also working on a voice-activated library that will give visually impaired people access to over 15,000 audio books.

The app is one of five nominees for the Best Accessibility Experience category of the Google Play Awards.

The winner will be announced May 7th.

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