I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
These lines from the famous poem ‘I Remember, I Remember’ by Thomas Hood, describing the experience of a child playing on the swing, capture the exhilaration that children derive from simple games. We have similar memories from our own childhood, of moments when our Barbies, Legos and HotWheels weren’t at hand, like during long rides on the school bus, and we were no less exuberant because we could thump our fist against the palm and play “Rock, Paper and Scissors”, or gesture with our fingers to play "Chopsticks", or choose to play any of the myriad other hand games. And before we noticed all those otherwise dull and boring hours would fly by, leaving behind a bunch of happy kids.
So, when asked to come up with an idea of a toy for the visually impaired, team Toy Story decided that we had to introduce them to the treasure trove of hand games - which they couldn’t normally play due to their impairment. For this, we partnered with Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, an NGO based out of Bangalore, India, that provides skill training and empowerment to the visually impaired. We got to know about Samarthanam through a colleague - who discovered this trust three years ago, and has ever since been associated with it – and knew that we had found the right organization. What makes Samarthanam go hand in glove with the aspirations of Project Playtime, is that its trustees (a majority of whom are visually impaired) are fervid patrons of sport. In fact, the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) is the sporting wing of Samarthanam, and also the winners of the last two seasons of blind world cup! (How cool is that? Check out this video to learn how blind cricket is played.)
Figure 1 Brainstorming for the prototype
To enable the blind to play hand games, we need to find solutions to the following problems:
- Recognizing hand gestures. Find a way to determine if the fingers are open or closed and determine which way the hand is oriented.
- Synchronizing the play. Ideally, both players must put forward their gestures at the same time, so that one person does not have prior knowledge of the other's move.This could be a challenge when both players are visually impaired.
- Giving feedback to the players on their performance. At the end of a match, each player would need to know the opponents move and the outcome of the match.
We went to the drawing table with these pointers in mind and brewed up a prototype. We would take a regular fabric glove and glue flex sensors on to the glove fingers – one piece per finger. When the flex sensor was bent, its resistance would change. So, a simple potential divider circuit could be used to detect if a finger was bent or straight. We would also mount an IMU sensor, which is a three channel accelerometer combined with a three channel gyro, at back of the glove. The accelerometer data would help in detecting motion of the hand while the gyro data would help in determining the orientation of the hand. And finally we would have to rig up a Bluetooth link between the glove and a smart phone, so that an application running on the phone could act as the arbitrator - enforcing the game rules and deciding the outcome of a match. The phone could also be used to provide auditory cues and feedback to the players.
With this infrastructure in place, went ahead and developed a simple hand game - rock, paper and scissors. See the video here. The video shows a player wearing the glove and competing against a computer. We designed a simple dashboard to display the moves of the player and the computer, and their respective scores. There are audio cues embedded into the application to inform the player of his moves (this is of course for demonstration purpose only, more detailed cues need to be implemented).
The scope of the glove stretches beyond being used as a toy. It could also be used as a controller for appliances that a visually impaired person would use on a daily basis. For instance, the visually impaired now rely on screen reading software to use their phones. So if they need to place a call or dial in a password, they need to raster scan their finger across the screen until they find the right number or character. But using a glove that can recognize gestures and communicate wirelessly, the person can use gestures to dial numbers and manage calls. Many other applications can be thought of, once we know the capabilities of the glove, and contrariwise, the capabilities of the glove can be tailored to meet the expectations of certain applications.
We will soon visit Samarthanam Trust with the prototype and get direct feedback from the children there.
Figure 5 3D rendering of "The Gauntlet"
- Role at ADI: I am a Software Development Engineer in the Automotive Electrification and Infotainment division.
- A bit about me: I was born and brought up in Bangalore. I completed my Bachelors in Engineering in Electronics and Communication at BMS College of Engineering. While in College, I was the coordinator of the fine arts club and a member of many technical clubs. I love exploring new avenues, and ADI has constantly provided me with the opportunity to do just that.
- What I want to get out of Project Playtime: I'm an engineer by day and a designer by night. Project Playtime has provided me with just that opportunity where I can apply both my technical and creative skills to solve problems and create something meaningful to improve the quality of life for many people. Through the product designed as a part of Project Playtime, I wish to provide visually impaired children beautiful childhood experiences and promote a sense of inclusion within our community.
- Favorite recreational activity: I have a long list of hobbies, with sketching and photography being my favorite activities. I started sketching at age 5, and I enjoy drawing portraits.
- Role at ADI: I work as a Product Apps. Engineer in the Central Apps. Team.
- A bit about me: I'm a just some normal guy.
- What I want to get out of Project Playtime: I've always been interested in gaming and associated hardware. When I saw a chance to build one myself through Project playtime, I could hardly refuse. The added societal impact makes the process altogether rewarding.
- Favorite recreational activity: Well, I spend more time on recreation than anything else, so I've got a bunch of 'em - Gaming (From DoTA to Dying to the infernal bosses of Dark Souls), Sketching, Reading high fantasy, I can keep listing stuff...so let me atop @ this.
- Role at ADI: I am a Software Engineer in the Automotive Infotainment group.
- A bit about me: I am half nerd. I am the sort of guy who could have a good time spending the whole weekend in developing a new theory on milk.
- What I want to get out of Project Playtime: I initially joined playtime, thinking it would be a fun project outside of work. Slowly I am beginning to see that it is also about taking and sharing responsibilities being able to do things on your own.
- Favorite recreational activity: I enjoy playing racquet sports, watching movies and chatting about ideas, when I am not killing myself with strenuous thinking.
- Role at ADI: I am a Design Engineer in the Precision converters group.
- A bit about me: Outside of work, I organize and manage events.
- What I want to get out of Project Playtime: It would make me immensely happy to see kids having a great time playing with our toy.
- Favorite recreational activity: I enjoy playing table tennis and a little bit of cricket.
- Role at ADI: I am an Applications Engineer in Analog Garage.
- A bit about me: A rare species of an Ambivert, A Social Freak!
- What I want to get out of Project Playtime: The joy of contributing to the smiles of someone who are one of the strongest individuals I have ever seen. At the same time, being a part of, and experiencing the entire life cycle of a product at ADI.
- Favorite recreational activity: I love to cook, I try out dishes from different cuisines and try and perfect them. I get satisfied by seeing the happiness in the eyes of people who are tasting my dish :p
- Role at ADI: I am an Applications Engineer in the Precision converters group.