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This foot controller aims to help disabled players enjoy more games

A new controller from a team of former John's Hopkins students aims to help disabled players enjoy a broader swath of video games.

Designing fully accessible controls for video games is still a difficult task given that most controls for video games require either a controller or mouse and keyboard, and thus limit accessibility when it comes to helping players who are disabled in their upper body. 

But for engineers George Levay, Nate Tran, and Adam Li, that obstacle seems to only be a challenge, not an insurmountable wall. 

According to Popular Science, the trio have built a special set of sandals that will allow players to control PC games using foot motions. The device, called GEAR (Game Enhancing Augemented Reality), was born out of a class assignment during Levay’s time at Johns Hopkins. Levay, Tran and Li won the grand prize at the 2016 Intel-Cornell Cup for building it.

The class assignment was to build an alternative control device for computers. Levay himself lost his hands due to complications from a previous infection, and was thinking about a device that could help him play more video games. 

“I asked [Li and Tran] if we could do something I could actually use even though it might not be the most effective way to get an A in the class,” Levay told Popular Science. 

The sandals are made using three silicone padded pressure sensors beneath the feet, and recognizes eight different inputs at four per foot. Currently, one foot can be programmed to handle movement, while the other covers what would normally be face buttons or mouse inputs. 

Levay anticipates being able to expand the GEAR’s capabilities to handle up to 15 inputs. And with the assistance of a trackball, Levay’s already been able to use the controller to play games like Mirror’s Edge, as seen in the video below. 

It’s a pretty impressive display, and Levay’s also released a video showcasing how his use of the controller fares against typical mouse-and-keyboard players. It’s no guarantee that the GEAR could be a silver bullet for all players with upper body disabilities, but if Levay, Tran and Li are able to get the GEAR to market, it could be a boon for developers looking to support these player in any way they can.

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