Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student programmers, cognitive scientists, game designers, character artists, level artists, music composers, and electrical engineers are working in a dynamic interdisciplinary team developing groundbreaking interactive game simulation modules for people with disabilities to help them develop independence in conjunction with The Center for Disability Services, Adult Day Services Division in Albany, New York.
CapAbility Games Research Project is creating fun game learning modules needed for basic life skills such as personal care, job readiness skills, money management, personal interactions, household management and other areas. Students are using their talents and developing new ones while making a difference in the lives of many amazing people.
Mary Kim Purcell, Deputy Executive Director of The Center for Disability Services contacted Prof. Ruiz after seeing some of her work and the work of her Experimental Game Design students. A motivated interdisciplinary group of Rensselaer students was formulated and is now collaborating and developing creative simulations and interfaces for physically and mentally disabled individuals.
The Center for Disability Services is the largest agency of its kind in NY State outside of the NYC Metropolitan area. Mary Kim's division, which includes all the adult day and vocational services, operates a Technology Center for individuals with multiple physical disabilities who are in need of computer interfaces to be productive. Many of these individuals have or had normal to near normal cognitive abilities and some are people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. There are a wide range of interests for this group, but many of these individuals are best able to connect with their passions through computers, media, games and the arts.
The capAbility Games Research Project is designing visual/auditory stimulation and memory systems and innovative interface modalities for individuals who have sustained brain injuries and are physically handicapped.
The capAbility Games project is a collaborative effort between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students under the direction of Associate Professor of Integrated Arts, Kathleen Ruiz and the Center for Disability Services Adult Day Services Division. The goal of the project is to create a series of simulated learning environments or serious games for individuals with disabilities to have an alternative and fun way to learn skills related to independence in their daily lives. While it is hoped that many daily activities could eventually be part of the skill sets for the simulations, the pilot is a grocery shopping trip where an individual with disabilities shops for a meal based on a meal plan and shopping list. An interdisciplinary group of Rensselaer student artists, engineers, computer scientists, IT professionals, and cognitive scientists have created a “virtual cave” type of environment based on the layout of a local Price Chopper store where you actually feel as if you are an individual in a wheelchair maneuvering down a grocery aisle and choosing your purchases. The plan is to adapt this with a variety of accesses so that people with various disabilities can use it as an additional learning tool. The current prototype uses a joystick.
Many thanks to Price Chopper for their cooperation with this project and for the scavenging ability of the participants in finding needed equipment with little resources. It is hoped that the prototype will be of assistance in finding resources to continue this important project.