My previous work on augmented reality (AR) and a simple train game caught the attention of COGAIN and associated members. COGAIN focuses specifically on promoting research and development within the field of gaze-based interaction. Some of the many beneficiaries of their work, are the people afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Using most common software programmes using gaze-interaction presents a significant challenge. Although gaze-interaction is improving on a daily basis, there is an interaction barrier introduced by the fact that almost no software natively supports gaze interaction. This lack of native support many games virtually unplayable as they depend on advanced input and real-time input.
The goal of this project was to fill some of this enormous void with a game researched and designed from the ground up, intended for people using gaze as their main method interaction.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a debilitating disease characterized by rapidly progressive weakness, muscle atrophy and a number of other symptoms. Usually, the afflicted person is only left with the 'eye muscles' intact, severely limiting their ability to interact on a daily basis.
As previously noted, the ability for the afflicted people to enjoy most modern computer entertainment is severely restricted. While the most ideal solution would be to provide anyone with the means to control modern video games using purely their eye-movement, this approach will always suffer from unwanted/unintentional input. Until modern science pushes the remaining boundaries so far that we can reliably control a computer using our mind, we're left with a single alternative. Designing entertainment specifically for people using gaze interaction.
As any developer will tell you, two months is an infinitely small time in which to prototype, develop, and test any type of game. In order to make the most of the time given, the game relied heavily on the basic game idea used in my master thesis.
The player is provided with a set of train tracks with which to guide along and pick up valuable resources to deliver to nearby towns. The ultimate goal is to get as high a score as possible. The mechanics in the game are very forgiving and it is virtually impossible to 'lose'.
The dark side of this particular 'feature' is that the game only provides a moderate challenge at best. However, in light of the brief development time and target audience, it still ends up being a preferable outcome, compared to a more rewarding, yet potentially insurmountable challenge.