Iridium Studios, There Came an Echo and Widening Access to Videogames

 

Shortly after installing There Came An Echo I was struck by just how responsive and flexible its voice control scheme is, but the implications of such a system reach further than I had envisaged at the time. Sure, controlling Corrin with a series of precise voice commands is a cool feature, but for gamers with physical or neurological conditions it could quite literally be a game changer, if you will pardon the pun.

A recent video uploaded to Youtube by Andrew Monkelban gives an exciting glimpse at the future possibilities for Iridium Studios’ voice recognition software. Andrew, who was born with cerebral palsy,  is unable to speak and instead issues commands using a program called “Proloquo2Go” on his iPad. “I spent approximately 10 minutes programming the commands listed in the Command Alias menu into Proloquo2Go,” said Andrew. ” I decided it was time to dive into the game and was pleasantly surprised by how well and how quickly my commands were recognized, especially considering I use a synthesized voice.”.

Despite it being fairly accurate he did have some issues, as he continued: “I have, however, run into a couple of problems with the voice recognition. For example, sometimes my commands aren’t registered and sometimes my squad tells me to speak up even though my iPad and my mic volume are both 100%” – although he is unsure whether this issue is due to the voice recognition, his iPad or his microphone. Despite a few small issues, Andrew has enjoyed the game: “I find There Came an Echo very fun to play because you are verbally issuing commands and not pressing buttons.”.

When asked about the impact Iridium’s voice recognition tech could have for disabled gamers, Andrew takes a reserved and cautious stance, stating: “It could be very wide-reaching, but most developers will not incorporate voice commands. Especially not to the extent that Iridium did with There Came An Echo. It’s a shame too, because it has so much potential to help challenged gamers”

Iridium Studios, who initially shared Andrew’s video, acknowledged that there was much work to be done to make games more accessible to people with physical or neurological conditions, stating that: “Traditional controls are great but they do tend to limit access for those with (health) conditions.”. They also acknowledged that incorporating in-depth voice commands was a risk: “Moving away from the status quo is financially risky, but by changing things up, we’re very, very proud to allow all those who love video games to be able to play” The small development studio has confirmed that this won’t be the last we’ll be seeing of their voice recognition tech, as they intend to continue its development in the future.

There Came An Echo is an important milestone in making games more accessible to people from all walks of life. It is too early to tell how significant its impact will be for future releases, but Iridium Studios should be commended for taking a gamble, nonetheless.

 

You can check out Andrew’s  accessibility-focused game reviews at saltyaccess.com