START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x

Learning Yoga Just Became Easier for the Blind, Thanks to a Video Game

Learning Yoga Just Became Easier for the Blind, Thanks to a Video Game

Anyone who has practiced yoga knows that in order to get a pose right, you need to see your instructor demonstrate it. That typically meant yoga was hugely challenging, and mostly inaccessible, to the blind and sight-impaired.

That’s all in the past, future yogis. Now, thanks to the work of some computer engineers from the University of Washington, practicing yoga just became infinitely easier for those who can’t see.

Kyle Rector, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science and engineering at UW, has created a Microsoft Kinect software program that solves the tricky problem of making a sight-based activity accessible. It essentially emulates a yoga instructor by analyzing body position and providing auditory feedback to the user, guiding him or her into the correct pose.

The program, called “Eyes-Free Yoga,” is an exergame, which is a video game played actively without having to touch a screen or remote. Eyes-Free Yoga teaches six primary yoga poses: Mountain Pose, Warrior I, Warrior II, Reverse Warrior, Tree Pose and Chair Pose.

Project lead Rector developed Eyes-Free Yoga with two collaborators — Julie Kientz, a UW assistant professor in computer science, human centered design and engineering, and Cynthia Bennett, a research assistant in computer science and engineering.

“I see this as a good way of helping people who may not know much about yoga to try something on their own and feel comfortable and confident doing it,” Kientz said. “We hope this acts as a gateway to encouraging people with visual impairments to try exercise on a broader scale.”

Rector, Kientz and Bennett decided that they would follow six principles in designing Eyes Free Yoga. Their end product had to be accessible, yogic, encourage confidence, target newbies, ensure accessibility features did not compromise learning and encourage a challenging workout.

For each of the six poses, Rector and her colleagues included about 30 different commands for improvement that they based on up to a dozen essential rules for each position. The Kinect uses cameras and skeletal-tracking technology to read the user’s body position and then offers instruction on perfecting the pose.

The program begins by checking the user’s core and then uses auditory commands to suggest alignment adjustments. Next it focuses on the head and neck and then moves to the arms and legs. Along the way, the program offers specific guidance, such as “Rotate your shoulders left” or “Bring your arms closer to your head.”

When the user is doing everything correctly, the program will say, “Good job!” The voice users hear is that of a real yoga instructor.

Watch Rector describe “Eyes Free Yoga” in this video:

Rector put a lot of work into developing this program.  The best way to understand the difficulties of a pose is to learn it for yourself, so Rector did quite a bit of yoga as part of this project. She enrolled in five foundational yoga courses to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of the poses she wanted Eyes-Free Yoga to teach.

In addition, Rector carefully studied a yoga teacher training manual and consulted 10 yoga instructors through the design, development and evaluation phases.

Yoga instructor feedback about the most common mistakes people make for each of the six poses was factored into Eyes-Free Yoga. This information allowed Rector to tweak the program’s instructions to correct these types of errors.

The team recruited 16 blind or low vision volunteers to participate in their evaluation of the software. Eight women and eight men participated, ranging in age from 13 to 60 years old. By the end of the evaluation, 13 of the participants said they’d recommend this exergame to others.

Rector hopes Eyes-Free Yoga will serve the sight-impaired community by giving them confidence, encouraging them to play more such games, and ultimately persuade them to atttend actual yoga classes.

This program is an exciting early step toward making traditionally sight-based activities such as yoga truly accessible for the first time to the sight-impaired.  Eventually, an entire yoga class might be easy to follow using a combination of technology and precise verbal instruction.

Calling all yogis — send some positive, yogic intention thoughts out to the universe and just maybe someone with brains and ability will be inspired to take this wonderful work to the next level.

Namaste, Care2 readers.

Related Stories:

5 Ways Yoga is Changing the World

Is it Anti-Christian to Teach Yoga in Schools?

Yoga Moves for the Office

Read more: , , , , , ,

Photo credit: Thinkstock

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

56 comments

+ add your own
11:02PM PST on Nov 12, 2013

TFS!

3:26PM PST on Nov 7, 2013

Cool!

1:42PM PST on Nov 6, 2013

Thank you!

8:15AM PST on Nov 3, 2013

Hope they are evaluating it so others can learn how well it works to consider developing similar applications for other activities--I can see it for classical dance/ballet for example.

7:58AM PST on Nov 3, 2013

thats fantastic !!!!

5:39PM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

interesting

1:50PM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

Thanks

6:21AM PDT on Oct 27, 2013

Cool!

9:32AM PDT on Oct 26, 2013

cool.

6:21AM PDT on Oct 25, 2013

Thank you.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

"Get back to normal" is not a reasonable goal. Jailing the worst 10% of the Police and giving the rest…

If everyone would come together and help, this would stop happening.

Don't you love how liberals really do think that something can be totally "free"? I have an idea -…

meet our writers

Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.