Now the visually impaired can also enjoy the famous racing simulator.
Turn 10 Studios - the developer behind the beloved Forza Motorsport gaming series - has made it possible for blind people to enjoy driving around in the game. As you can imagine, this was quite a challenge - after all, video games rely heavily on vision, naturally. The ability to see also plays a massive role in driving, though you wouldn't say so given the large number of people who stare at their phones rather than through the windscreen.
The game has announced a new system called Blind Driving Assists, built specifically for people with low vision or who are entirely blind. To coincide with the launch, Xbox posted a video featuring Brandon Cole, an Accessibility Consultant and avid Forza racer.
Cole works closely with game developers, and together they find a way to make various games accessible to the blind, and Forza is the latest to receive the treatment. "Most blind people have been in vehicles but have never driven one. That's who we have to design for," said Cole.
How do you overcome such a massive challenge? Without wanting to offend anyone, blind people driving is a logical fallacy and should therefore be labeled as a fruitless endeavor. We are talking about a game that will likely set the new standard for in-game visuals. Luckily, there are people like Neha Chintala (Gameplay & Accessibility Producer) and Todd Helsley (Senior Sound Supervisor) who don't back down from a challenge simply because it seems impossible.
The first piece of the puzzle is called the Steering Guide. It pans the engine and tire noise to the left or right, depending on the direction the driver has to turn. There are also track limit cues that let the driver know that they're nearing the track limits.
Other audible information provided to the gamer includes orientation, braking input, shifting points, and when they gain a position. Think of it as painting an image with sound or a more advanced version of blind soccer where the ball is equipped with a sound system so the players can orient themselves.
The One Touch Driving feature lets the gamer adjust the controller according to how mobile they are. If you have complete control of both hands like Cole, you can use a controller regularly. Another person might not be so lucky and may need the joystick to handle more than just steering.
For online gaming, Forza Motorsport will have text-to-speech and speech-to-text functionality because insulting somebody's mom after beating them in a race is almost as important as winning the race.
According to Cole, it took some time to learn the system because there's so much information coming at the gamer. But he powered through and eventually beat the artificial intelligence. The game has yet to be released, but from what we know, we're expecting it to be the most advanced racing simulator ever.
We applaud Studio 10 for making this game as inclusive as possible. For the first time ever, blind people will have access to more than 500 cars, including icons like the E30 BMW M3.
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