Aug 10, 2013

Kinect Interaction to support people with disabilities: DoubleFine's Happy Action Theater/Kinect Party; OAK Air Switch and Face Switch, resources

I've been experimenting with gesture and touch-based applications for many years and I'm excited to see how things have unfolded over the past couple of years, especially in the field of special education.

Last week I downloaded DoubleFine'Kinect-based Happy Action Theater/Kinect Party,  to use during some group activities with students I work with who have significant disabilities (including severe autism).  I wish I had discovered this suite of games sooner!

I had loads of fun with students and colleagues as we explored some of the 36 creative, and sometimes zany, minigames.  I had heard that DoubleFine had launched something special, but didn't realize how awesome it was until I spent some serious playful time with it at home last weekend. I then tried it out at work this past week.  

If you are planning to explore Happy Action Theater/Kinect party, keep in mind that it plays best when there are at least two people and an audience to cheer everything along.  Through the use of blob detection algorithms, the games can handle up to 6 players at a time, which is perfect for small-group special classes.

The following trailer gives just a little hint of what this suite of mini-games is all about!

I noted that many of the games were effective in helping students become more aware of their peers. They began to play and interact with one-another in ways I hadn't previously imagined.  I especially liked the fact that many of the mini-games made it possible for students in wheelchairs to participate.  

I look forward to exploring more of the games over the next few months and will follow up with a future post after I get more input from my colleagues (and students).

I learned about Kinect Party through my contact with people involved with the GestureSEN wiki. The wiki was created as part of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) for people who work with students in specialized schools, similar to the school where I work, and contains a wealth of information about the use of newer and emerging technologies, such as the iPad, Leap Motion, the Kinect, and eye-gaze systems to support young people with significant disabilities  including autism  Some members of the GestureSEN wiki have learned to code or are in the process of doing so, motivated by what they've experienced so far with their students.  (More information and links are listed in the "RELATED" section of this post.)


OAK was developed by RCAST at the University of Tokyo in collaboration with Microsoft Japan Co., Ltd. It uses the motion-tracking capabilities of Microsoft's Kinect sensor to create non-contact switches for people with limited mobility, enabling them access to computers and other electronic devices and systems.  The video below provides a nice overview of the OAK system.

The OAK Pro bundle includes the following applications:

The Air Switch software uses the distance/depth capabilities of the Kinect sensor to support gestures of the head, hands, or larger body part to turn things off or on. The infrared from the Kinect also supports the use of the Air Switch in the dark.   The color mode function captures movements from smaller parts of the body, such as a fingertip.

The Face Switch software uses facial recognition software that can track the movements of the face, mouth, tongue, and eyes.  It can identify facial parts that have moved significantly, and records motion data 

The Motion History software observes  the movement of a person's body using the video component of the Kinect sensor.   This customizes the system to the individual and ensures accuracy of the switch.   Movements are color coded and provide the person who is setting up the system a means to fit the system to the specific capabilities and needs of the user.  

The OAK system can be enhanced by the sue of peripherals, such as a USB 4 channel relay box, an IR remote control device or outlet, or other on/off switches/outlets.

The Assist-i corporation has made the OAK system and peripherals available on Amazon Japan.  From what I can tell from the company's website, the OAK software can be downloaded free for a 30-day trial.   I'd love to see how it would work with some of the students I work with who have difficulty accessing conventional switches!  It would be wonderful to come up with ways for these students to access a wider range of digital media activities and games.

University adapting videogame technology to help physically disabled computer users
Philip Kendall, Japan Today, 10/10/12
OAK Air Switch (PC Kinect) 4/30/13
OAK Air Switch, Face Switch, Motion History Pro Bundle (pdf)
Assist-i Corporation
Amazon Ai store: Assist-i Corporation (Prices are in Yen.)

Below is a partial list of links to resources related to using or creating engaging interactive applications and games for people with special needs: 

Using Kinect in Special Ed Classrooms: Advice from Loudoun County, Virginia Teachers
Microsoft in Education Team, Microsoft in Education Blog, 6/1/12

KinectSEN-Kinect and Special Educational Needs round-up
Greg Dunan, Microsoft Coding4Fun, 10/11/12

Monkeying Around with Autism Assessments: Kinect-based game by Vectorform andKaiser Permanente therapists offers a barrel of possibilities!
Lynn Marentette, Interactive Multimedia Technology, 7/23/13

Behind the Scenes: Creating Marty the Monkey (The character from Vectorform's autism assessment app) John Einselen, Vectorform Blog, 7/24/13

Kinect Party Review: More Fun from the Fun Kings
Casey Lynch, IGN, 12/20/12

The Power of Kinect in Special Needs Education
Willemijn de Lint,  Hans Smeele, mytylschool De Ruimte

Sign Language Recognition and Translation with Kinect (pdf)
Ming Zhou, et. al.

Cool Kinect move: Reading sign language in real time
Christopher MacManus, CNET, 7/18/13

Anthony Rhys, Trinity Fields ICT

James Winchester, SENClassroom blog

PMLD Eyegaze Project at Trinity Fields

Kinect hacking using Processing

Kinect SEN and Processing Resources
Keith Manville, Oak Grove College OpenSEN

Mat's Classroom Blog

GestureSEN Wiki
KinectSEN Wiki; KinectSEN News
ProcessingSEN wiki
LeapSEN Wiki
EyegazeSEN Wiki

SEN Students and Coding
OpenSEN, 3/5/13


Kinect for Windows Blog

Kinect For Windows

Understanding Engagement, Module 3.2Training materials for teachers of learners with severe, profound and complex learning difficulties, UK Dept. for Education

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