AR and computer vision technology could revolutionize athletics for children overcoming physical disabilities.
A team of researchers led by Roland Graf, Associate Professor at the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, has developed a projection-based augmented reality sports experience that allows children of varying abilities the chance to play against one another in a fair environment.
Referred to as iGYM, the interactive system works by using an overhead projector to create an augmented reality court similar to that of a soccer field. A computer vision camera mounted above the augmented arena projects a “peripersonal circle” around each player. This digital barrier can then be expanded by the player in order to “kick” the ball into their opponent’s net.
The beauty of the peripersonal circle is that it can be controlled and expanded using a variety of interactions. Using the tracking capabilities afforded by the computer vision camera, players can trigger their circle by kicking their legs, swinging their arms, or by pushing a corresponding button.
The result is an all-inclusive AR experience that allows even those with serious physical disabilities the chance to compete on a level playing field against any opponents, regardless of their athletic capabilities.
“Currently there is nothing like iGYM,” said Graf in a statement according to ClickOnDetroit. “Other accessible gaming technologies are either limited to small screens or developed for people with cognitive disabilities.”
Graf claims that he began the project after meeting James Falahee, a wheelchair-bound teenager who provided feedback for one of Graf’s previous technology games.
“James was interested in this project from a sports perspective,” says Graf. “This started our iGYM development effort and our effort to focus on the design space of inclusive play.”
“I think that the iGYM is very cool,” adds Falahee. “My experience has been very good so far. I have even been allowed to invite friends to play with me. I think that the chance for disabled people to be able to participate in sports is very important because throughout most of my life I have been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch my friends play sports and games.”
Since the beginning stages of iGYM’s development, Falahee has served as a game tester for the team, providing notes on the AR experience from the perspective of a physically-disabled competitor.
“I think that it is a great honor,” Falahee said in a statement. “The game will bring so much fun to so many people and think that I was a part of it is such a privilege.”
Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on when iGYM will be made publically available, although Graf hopes to eventually offer the system as an affordable product for schools, community centers, and other youth-focused organizations.
iGYM was developed by a team of researchers based out of the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, which includes Roland Graf, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Hun Seok Kim, and Assistant Professor of Information Michigan Nebeling.
Feature Image Credit: Michigan Photography