Coventry students create smart game controllers for disabled people

The innovative video game controllers are designed for people with a range of disabilities.

Innovative video game controllers designed for people with a range of disabilities by Coventry student engineers were showcased at a special event on campus this week.

Third-year students at CU Coventry – part of the Coventry University group – taking Electro-Mechanical Engineering courses showed off their inventive controllers on the new campus at Mile Lane, and passers-by were encouraged to try them out.

Several different designs of controllers were used at the event to play several retro games including versions of Pacman, Pong and Snake.

As part of a third-year project, students were tasked to design a controller to help users with a specific disability such as an amputee or someone with motor neurone disease. 

One pair of students, Dan Castle and Edi Gutmanis, designed a ‘glove’ controller aimed at people undergoing rehabilitation after having a prosthetic hand fitted.

They showed what their glove – which senses movement and acceleration – was capable of by using it to control the avatar in Pacman.

Dan said: “The glove is designed to help people with a newly-attached prosthetic hand get used to its movement.

“Through playing video games and getting better and better scores, users will be able to objectively see how much better they are at using their new hand.

“Playing video games also helps patients’ mental health in the short and long-term – someone who may have lost a hand or arm in an accident may have suffered severe psychological trauma.

“Enabling these patients to enjoy video gaming through having a specialised controller has multiple benefits.”

A trio of students, Lucimara Manuel, Belgique Mendy and Khadijah Nasser, invented a controller which can sense tilting movements designed for people who have lost movement in their legs or lower body.

Belgique said: “Our controller can be attached to the hand, torso or even the head so it can be used for people with a range of mobility issues.

“It can sense movement in three dimensions, so it’s fully compatible with a variety of games.

“It was challenging to make, but we’re really pleased with the results. We loved seeing everyone try out our controller and having fun by trying to get a high score.”

Electro-Mechanical Engineering tutor Laurence Wilkins said: “This project was designed to get students thinking creatively about how to solve engineering problems through clever use of coding and hardware manufacturing.

“I was really pleased to see the variety of controllers invented by the students. Every single one was capable of controlling the games effectively and all of them could easily be used by those with disabilities.

“These kinds of skills will enable our students to be indispensable at engineering companies and could even allow them to invent something completely new.

“Employability is at the heart of what we do at CU Coventry so we’re very pleased our course is giving our students the attributes to succeed once they’ve graduated.”