Vision of an Accessible Future

Chatting with SpecialEffect about EyeMine

It’s easy to take things for granted. Like opening an article with a vague, blanket statement and assuming all of your readers will know exactly what you mean because today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Now that we’re all caught up on that, we can dive into today’s topic – sight. Some people are only able to navigate through the world using their eyes, and others have little to no vision at all. But everyone has a place in Minecraft.

The Wild Update is coming this year, which introduces the warden, a sight-less mob that moves through the deep dark using its sense of smell and feeling the vibrations of nearby movement. Not being able to see doesn’t slow the warden down – it uses its other heightened senses to its advantage, making it one of the strongest and most challenging mobs in the game. 

But what happens if you only use sight to make your way through Minecraft? A few years ago, we were able to meet with the wonderful people at SpecialEffect who have created EyeMine software that allows people to play Minecraft using eye-trackers. An eye-tracker uses infrared cameras that translate eye movements into a mouse tracker on a screen. This means that you don’t need a mouse and keyboard to enjoy Minecraft, thanks to software like EyeMine you can use your eyes and even head movement to craft to your heart’s content. 

Mark Saville, who works with Communications Support at SpecialEffect was kind enough to give us a little more insight into this important project. 

What inspired this project?

Mark: Our charity helps people with physical disabilities play the games that they want to play, and Minecraft’s huge popularity meant that its name was cropping up on their gaming wish lists again and again! We have a long history of using eye gaze cameras to give people access to technology, so we were well-placed to explore the potential of opening up the game to players who use eye control, whether they were experienced users of the tech or just starting out with it.

Why choose Minecraft for this software?

Mark: I think one of the reasons we were able to successfully develop the concept into something that so many players around the world now use to enjoy the game was the ability to create an interface that sat outside Minecraft, yet worked with features we were able to add into the game itself.

What impact has EyeMine had on the gaming community?

Mark: We’d sunk a lot of resources into getting EyeMine as usable as possible before launching in 2018, and it was fantastic that it was making global waves within hours of release. A video appeared from Japan of a young boy with severe disabilities totally engrossed in playing the game, and this comment from a Dutch disability specialist was typical of many that came in:

“I installed EyeMine for a client of mine… he loves watching other people playing games but, until today, he wasn’t able to play games himself.  He almost jumped out of his wheelchair out of sheer joy. His brothers were both were so happy for him and wanted to show him everything they knew in Minecraft. Then they played multiplayer, all three of them playing in the same world…”

Mark: Several wonderful people with disabilities had played a key part in the testing of EyeMine during its development, and it was a vindication of their valuable insight that pickup was so amazing. One of the team, Becky, who’s an eye gaze artist and gamer, said “We’re all the same in a Minecraft world and I’m not disabled there. It’s helped me to be seen more equally by others, and not judged because of my disability.”

Thank you, Mark and everyone at SpecialEffect! If you want to learn more about SpecialEffect and EyeMine, you can visit their website and check out their episode in our Meet a Minecrafter series! And a big thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to reflect on this with me today. It doesn’t matter if these issues touch your life or not, there’s a big world out there and all of us are different. Treating your peers with kindness and empathy should be a given, and it’s an action that can take many different shapes. Today I encourage all of you to go out and find ways that you can make the world a more accessible space for all of us. 

 

Sofia Dankis
Written By
Sofia Dankis
Published

    Block...Block...Block...