The Xbox zero: Why the Xbox One may be the wrong choice for blind people

Both major consoles in our next console generation have been revealed, and while we don’t know everything about them, enough information has been confirmed that conclusions can begin to be drawn. There are some worrisome things which I will touch on here, but which aren’t completely clear. If these things are true, though, and some of them are, the blind may need to be wary.

First and foremost, it has been confirmed that the Xbox One requires the Kinect 2 sensor to be hooked up before one can begin playing. It is an integral part of the console this time around. On the surface this doesn’t actually seem like a bad thing. Blind folks do love the kinect’s voice control features, and if we learn the available commands, navigation could be a breeze. However, it still remains true that not everyone has the large space the Kinect requires for its camera, and this could present a couple problems.

I for one, don’t have the 8 feet of space the Kinect wants. This could, for example, result in me accidentally performing some gesture the Kinect recognizes, and the Xbox switching to something crazy without my knowledge, all because I happen to be within range. While we might be able to say “Xbox home” and get out of that situation, it’s a workaround I fear we’d be using far too often.

That is a minor concern, mostly because there is a workaround, but what about this? Consider the implications where games themselves are concerned. Since every Xbox One will come with a Kinect 2, developers can feel confident that everyone will have that technology. I believe this will lead to an increase in the use of the Kinect in games, and believe me, even when developers bring in the Kinect, they don’t have to use every aspect of it. All a developer has to do is start requiring specific gestures for actions in their game, maybe gestures directed at specific parts of the screen, such as grabbing something for instance, not allowing for voice control, and we almost certainly will be barred from playing that game. I could be wrong about the ways in which I suspect developers will use the device, but I can also tell you that most currently existing Kinect games are unplayable by the blind. I think it’s a valid concern.

I know it’s hard to believe, but the thing is, I actually really like the Kinect. I can respect technology even if I can’t take full advantage of it, and yes, voice control is great wen and where it’s allowed. And yet, I have felt ever since it was confirmed that the Kinect being a REQUIREMENT with the Xbox One is a huge mistake, as well as just being bad for the blind folks out there.

Now, the last concern. This is the one that we don’t have full confirmation of just yet, but if this proves true, we won’t be able to play any disc-based gamees at all. It has been confirmed that every disc-based game for the Xbox One has to be installed to the console. Some of us do that anyway with our 360’s, so we’re OK with that. However, one source I read said you would also have to enter a code which came with the game to download a small chunk of data that then registers that game to your console. You must do this before the game can be played at all. Now, if you’re a sighted person reading this, think about that for a second.

These codes, if they exist, are going to be on little printed cards that come in the game box. This means that, in order to play at all, we have to find someone sighted to at least read the code. Entering it isn’t the problem so long as it can be read. Attempting to scan it and perform optical character recognition is one option, but the likelihood of some characters being wrong is quite high, even with today’s technology. Well, nothing against the sighted, but we blind folk tend not to want to be reliant. We want to be able to put in a game, and play it all on our own. ON top of that, some of us live alone, and have nobody in the immediate area to ask anyway. I see this as the biggest potential problem for us.

I am not, by any means, saying this is the final word, and blind people should absolutely not get an Xbox One no matter what. I’m saying that we should be very careful. Watch the updates as they unfold, pay attention to E3, be as informed as yu can be before making that decision. If it turns out I’m wrong abut all this, fantastic. Go for it. However I feel it was worth it to bring all this up, just in case it hadn’t been thought of yet by others seeking to get the console. If things continue on this trend, it will be a major step backward for Xbox, who was the first to give us an accessible marketplace. Time will tell, though, as more information arises. Expect more on this topic in the future.

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