A friend of mine recently became a quadriplegic following an accident, and while recovering in hospital commented that his one wish was to get back to playing video games. Today, thanks to the efforts of UK-based company SpecialEffect, his wish is that much closer to reality – you can now play Minecraft using only your eyes.
Making the deal even sweeter: The software – called EyeMine – is open source, and completely free to download for anyone with a Minecraft account.
SpecialEffect Founder and CEO Dr Mick Donegan explains:
For us, EyeMine represents a watershed development. It’s a flagship example of taking the experience we’ve gained through our one-to-one work with gamers with the most severe physical disabilities and translating it into a means of helping a huge number of people on a global scale.
This isn’t exactly something that most able-bodied gamers are going to rush out to download. You’ll need a suitable eye-tracker installed on your machine to begin with – EyeMine works with a number of them out of the box (including Tobii and MyGaze), and can be set up to work with any eye-tracker that controls a mouse pointer.
Eye-trackers use in-built infrared cameras to, well, track your eyes. The software follows your gaze around the computer screen, and “clicks” are measured by blinking, using a physical switch, or even by staring at the screen for a certain length of time. While experienced eye-tracker users can use them to navigate almost as quickly as an average keyboard/mouse user, the software does take a bit of getting used to – and success can vary wildly depending on the user’s physical abilities.
Happily, SpecialEffect understands this, and have designed EyeMine with a number of ability levels so that even the most inexperienced eye tracker user can get their gaming fix. At its most basic, the software uses a a square button “about a quarter of the height of a monitor”, to enable walking, flying and attacking. More accurate eye control unlocks the ability to build, select items from the inventory and even chat.
At its most basic, the EyeMine software uses the eye-tracker hardware to replicate mouse movement (it’s a fork of the OptiKey project, if you’re curious), adding in an assistive keyboard and a custom mod behind-the-scenes, helping to make Minecraft more accessible for everyone.
I’ve passed all this on to my friend – hopefully he’ll be back battling creepers in no time!