Playing With Your Eyes

UK charity SpecialEffect is running a crowdfunding drive to help disabled gamers play using nothing but their eyes.

News by Pete Davison, .

The able-bodied among us tend to take the vast array of control schemes available to us today somewhat for granted.

We've got controllers with buttons; touchscreens without buttons; motion controllers that you hold in your hand; motion controllers you stand in front of; virtual reality headsets and all manner of other options besides.

But for gamers with disabilities, traditional control schemes aren't always an option. That's the main reason for UK-based charity SpecialEffect to exist -- in its own words, the organization was set up to "find ways for disabled people, unable to use a standard video games controller, to be able to enjoy the interaction, fun and many other benefits of playing video games." The charity cites the benefits of games as being not only fun, but also a means of kickstarting rehabilitiation, self-esteem and inclusion.

SpecialEffect helps gamers with disabilities to play games through the creation, lending and support of specialist controllers and other equipment. These range from modified joypads to eye-controlled computers, and the charity's official site is filled with case studies and testimonials from people who have benefited from the charity's support. Callum, for example, was paralyzed from the shoulders down following a BMX accident, but SpecialEffect helped devise a controller setup that allows him to play his favorite racing games with his chin; five year old Henry, meanwhile, has severe cerebral palsy that restricts his speech and movement, and was introduced to eye-gaze technology by the charity -- both for controlling games and physical toys.

As SpecialEffect has grown its profile over the last few years, so too has the demand for its services. The charity is now at a point where it needs to add additional equipment to its library -- specifically, an additional eye-controlled gaming system. The organization doesn't charge anyone it works with for the services it provides, nor does it receive any government funding -- so this means that voluntary donations from the public are a lifeline.

Consequently, SpecialEffect has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help with the purchase of the new eye-controlled gaming system. The device is specifically designed to suit those with conditions such as locked-in syndrome, motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. The total cost for the new setup -- which includes the eye-control device plus software, floor stand and a computer to use it with -- is £5,950 (just under $9,500), and at the time of writing the campaign is 27% to its goal.

Unlike most crowdfunding campaigns, SpecialEffect has chosen not to spend large amounts of money on backer rewards. Instead, depending on their level of support, backers will receive an acknowledgement on SpecialEffect's website, in the credits of the team's next video update or on a virtual plaque on the desktop of the new gaming system. The most extravagant reward is reserved for those who pledge €300 or more (about $400): they'll be able to spent the day with the SpecialEffect team in the National Accessible Games Center next March and see how the organization helps gamers with disabilities.

To find out more about SpecialEffect, check out the organization's official website and YouTube channel. You can find the crowdfunding campaign itself on Gambitious.

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