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If you have trouble seeing, or even if you’re legally blind, you can still play games. It may not be easy; many games don’t have the tools to help those with vision problems, so they turn to community modders and other techniques to pull this off.
Enter Mars Vision. It’s software that monitors a game in real time and helps a player deal with its environment and menus. It uses a neural network to do this, translating what’s on the screen into something more readable for the visually impaired. And game company Super.com is entering into a partnership to help launch this new software.
“We think a product like Mars Vision can truly change the world. Accessibility is a key topic right now within the game industry, and if we can play a part in how people interact and experience gaming, we’ll be proud to have done so,” Super.com CEO Oleg Sambikin said over email. “We believe that this project will have a significant impact on the games industry and development. Mars Vision is a product that will change the world for the visually impaired community in terms of access to a very visual-dominant space such as games and further beyond gaming.”
Mars Vision is in a closed beta right now. The two companies didn’t specifics about when it would launch, saying that it would launch later this year. If you’re interested in checking this out, you can sign up here.
Super.com publishes games, but it also invests in studios and software technologies, including startups like Mars Vision.
Mars Vision in a nutshell
Mars Vision is separate software. As you run a game, such as Civilization VI or Grand Theft Auto V, it monitors what’s happening onscreen and provides audio cues and descriptions of what’s going on. Super says Mars Vision works with many genres, including MMOs, RPGs, shooters, and strategy games.
“Mars Vision can recognize and react to objects and acts as an assistant to visually impaired gamers, connecting them with the game’s environment and situations in it,” Sambikin said. “We feel that games are for everyone, and no one should be excluded from enjoying them simply because the accessibility is not available or is very limited. There are many fantastic video games in the world that are developed with a heavy emphasis on visuals. Mars Vision’s technology can provide players who are unable to rely on these visuals with a way that lets them fully enjoy the games they want to play.”
Mars Vision is a standalone piece of software. It has no special integration, and it doesn’t do anything with code, so it could work with any video game, Sambikin said. Super and Mars Vision have tested it on The Witcher III, World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Civ VI, GTA V, and others.
“While this will take some time to achieve, our ultimate goal is to bring Mars Vision to as many games as possible, from indie to triple-A, so that blind and low-vision gamers can gain greater accessibility in all of their favorite titles,” Sambikin said.
Mars Vision will have custom settings for individual games. And users will be able to set these.
Accessibility is a key issue in the game industry. The work from advocate groups such as Special Effect and Able Gamers raise awareness for publishers and developers to think about how those with disabilities can also play their games. Companies such as Microsoft are making special controllers to help disable players.
“We deeply believe that games can be more than just entertainment. The medium is a fantastic avenue for creating significant advancements in terms of technology and advancing the world in a way that is more inclusive to everyone,” Sambikin said. “Games can, and should, be accessible to everyone. That’s why we want to help different teams bring their world-changing ideas to life.”
And it shows that companies out there are also willing to invest in solutions for disabled players.
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