Andromeda Texture Based Gaming Controller

The goal of this project was to develop a product to fulfil the needs of a specific underserved user group while also considering how the product would fit into the wider market.

Within this initial brief we decided to focus on creating an accesible gaming system for those who are visually impaired. After carrying out intial research we discovered that gaming is almost completly inaccesible for those who are visually impaired as the majority of games are reliant on graphics. We wanted to change this.

︎Project Portfolio (Screen Reader Supported)

The project started with in depth research in order to fully understand the needs of our user group. We talked to industry experts and continually met with our user who is completely blind to ensure we were creating something that would be truly useful.

After extensive prototyping, testing and validation we created the Andromeda M31 Gaming System. We developed unique hardware, electronics and software which allows games to be played through the us of haptics, textures and audio only.

//How it works
In order to communicate immersive game worlds without the use of visuals we designed a controller which incorpartes on array of tactile and haptic feedback hardware. These are used alongside 3D audio to enable the player to gradually build up a model of their surroundings and create a sense of immersion within the game world.

The design of the controller was informed by our initial in depth user research in which we tried to understand how those who are visually impaired naviagate, learn and imagine the world around them.

//Haptic Mappers
The haptic mappers rest on your wrists as you hold the controller and provide continuous accurate haptic actuations which the user can feel. These communicate information about the players surroundings by varying the intensity, type and loaction of haptic vibrations.

This component required extensive prototyping, iterating and testing in order to find the optimum location for the haptic motors as it was often very difficult for users to isolate one vibration from another. The final solution was to locate the 4 haptic motors on opposite sides of each of the users wrists. The haptic motors are embedded within a flexible Ninjaflex part in order to allow for different sized wrists.

//Texture Pads
The texture pads are used to provide information about sudden changes within the game world. They rest on your fingers in the position in which the triggers are located on a conventional controller. These rotate between different textures indicating to the user when the character is in the presence of an interactive object, hazards etc.

Different textures are assigned to different elements within the game environment allowing users to instantly understand when something has changed.

//Industrial Design
The form factor of the controller went through many itterations in order create an erganomic shape where the user can reach all the buttons easily but also feel the haptics and textures at specific points on their hands. We began by creating foam models for prototyping and then modelled the controller in Fusion 360 for aditive manufacturing.

Player starts in middle of room. There is nothing to interact with here so the texture pad is smooth and the are no haptic actuations.

Player discovers dangerous spikes blocking path which is indicated by the texture pad changing to a spiky surface. These are destroyed using the sword causing the texture pad to become smooth indicating the path is clear.
When player walks up to wall, actuations occur in corresponding region on haptic mappers signification your orientation within the room.

Doorway is signified by the texture pads changing to three raised dots. The player unlocks this using the N button on the controller to proceed and finish the game.
Alongside the developement of the controller, a test game was also created which was used for user testing and validation. This program directly communicates with the controller over usb. Controller inputs are sent to the program to control the character and haptic and teture information are sent back to the controller to control the outputs on the device.

A basic graphical represention of the game is also generated in order to help communicate how the system works as compared to a traditional game for those who are not visually impaired. Diagrams and descriptions bellow explain how traditional game elements map to physical outputs on controller M31.

A fully functionating prototype was developed to prove that the product was feasible and for user testing. This was comprised of 3D printed components from the CAD model as well as the custom built circuit board and electronic acuators.

The final prototype was tested with our user and the public in order to validate the design.

//How its made
An important aspect of this project was to create a design that was suitable for mass manufacture. The casing was designed for plastic injection moulding in two parts. It has built in mounting points and snap fits to hold all of the components in place with minimal screws and adhesives. The haptic mappers are removable and manufactured from a flexible polymer with embeded haptic motors and wires.

Technical Drawings Available Here
︎Top Casing
︎Base Casing
︎Haptic Mapper
︎Assembly Drawing

A custom circuit board was developed to power the M31 controller. An Arduino microcontroller is used to process data from the inputs and control the haptic motor drivers and servo motors. This communicates with the computer through a blutooth module which is connected to the serial output of the Ardunio.

The Andromeda logo can be represented as a 3D shape which is formed into the surface of Andromeda products and packaging as well as a 2D image. An audio logo was also created which plays when supported game are started up and at the beggining of marketing videos.

Custom packaging was designed for the product which incorparates a number of different design features such as braille and embossing to help communicate information to the user. Additionally, based upon insights from user interviews, we decided to include QR codes which directly link to an audio guide on how to set up the product. This is much easier and more accesible than rellying on braille alone. The QR code texture is embosed to allow users to find it.

//Tools Used
+ Fusion 360
+ Keyshot
+ Gamemaker
+ Arduino
+ Adobe Illustrator
+ Adobe Indesign
+ Adobe Photoshop
+ I-Circuit
+ Blue Foam Modelling
+ Airtable
+ PLA Fillament
+ Ninjaflex Filament
+ Arduino Nano & other electronics
+ Mini Vibrating Motor Disks
+ Neodinium Magnets
+ Servos
+ Striboard
+ Lithium Ion Battery
+ Aida Manzano Kharman
+ Saym Hussain
+ Bettina Sosa
+ June 2019

+ 28 June 2019 at Dyson School Summer Show