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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Xbox Kinect Perfect for Kids with Autism



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The story of developmentally disabled child finally playing videogames with his father is enough to warm my cold, black heart.

Out all of the news that's come to light since Kinect launched last week, this is the story that has affected me the most. John Yan, owner of Gaming Nexus, was unimpressed with the games available for Microsoft's new motion control system, but he went ahead and bought it anyway. As he was hooking it up, his four year old son was extremely interested in playing Kinect Adventures because the box looked fun. The catch is that John's son has autism, and while he often wants to play videogames, the boy is frustrated by manipulating the Xbox 360 controller. Even though John's son repeatedly says, "I want to play with you, Daddy," he usually just ends up watching his father play. That is, until they got Kinect.

After setting up the first minigame, John was happy to see his son have fun with Kinect Adventures. "He jumped around and flailed his arms and legs in trying to punch the balls back to the blocks," John wrote. "It was pretty cool to see but the thing that really threw me for a loop was when the game ended." His son was able to navigate the previously enigmatic menus flawlessly:

I said hold out your hand and place it on the button. Without any hesitation, he put his hand up and moved it over the button on the screen and held it there until the circle animation finished, indicating the button has been pressed.

After that initial coaching, he proceeded to move around in the menus without much vocal cues from me. I just stood there and was flabbergasted by what I just saw. Microsoft's design team did such a good job at creating a user interface with Kinect that my son was able to go through each menu to initiate the next round in Rally Ball. It's intuitive enough that I spent barely any time teaching my four year old special needs son how to go about the menu system.

Microsoft probably had no idea that it's motion control system would be suitable for someone with autism, but it certainly makes sense now that you think about it. Navigating a menu by moving or waving your hands is the simplest way to communicate with a computer, short of speaking to it like in Star Trek (something that Kinect also does).

But none of that technical science stuff is what matters, honestly. What makes me feel all warm and fuzzy is the fact that John was able to watch his son laugh and play.

"For the first time, I was able to play something with my son and not spend any time with him being frustrated on not being to do anything or have a character get stuck on the screen," John wrote. "He had fun with all the games and actually did well with them. The joy in his eyes as he was able to complete the tasks and move around in the menus is something I'll never forget."

Neither will I. Thank you for sharing this story, John.

Source: Gaming Nexus


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