What do computer science and engineering have to do with yoga? Accessibility, if you ask University of Washington PhD student, Kyle Rector, who developed this “exergame” for people who are blind or have low vision and want to practice yoga. By using the Microsoft Kinect’s Skeletal Tracking, depth cameras and basic geometry, Rector and her fellow researchers created Eyes-Free Yoga, a game teaching six yoga poses (mountain, warrior one, warrior two, reverse warrior, tree, chair/fierce pose) by providing auditory-only feedback for corrections and also the welcomed “good job” when poses are done correctly.
The project’s research team ran a controlled study with 16 people who are blind or low vision to evaluate the feasibility and functionality of the game and published their findings here.
“We found participants enjoyed the game, and the extra auditory feedback helped their understanding of each pose,” says the project’s website. “The findings of this work have implications for improving auditory-only feedback and on the design of exergames using depth cameras.”
People who are blind or low vision may find it more difficult to participate in exercise classes for various reasons or even independent exercise, as a lot of activities rely on visual feedback, especially those coming from a video game console. Rector’s mission is to help close that gap, she says on her UofW page.
Though it’s tough to say a game can better replace a real live yoga teacher, and there can certainly be some improvements (ie. yoga is not just about one size fits all angles and geometry), Eyes-Free Yoga may be a big step in the right direction for making activities like yoga accessible to people who maybe can’t see it, but they can feel it.