This Light-Based Game Will Help Kids With Autism Connect

The Tovertafel Unique is a gaming system most of us aren’t ever likely to have in our collections — gamers aren’t the intended audience for its hardware or its software. It’s a large projector that’s mounted over a perfectly ordinary table that acts as a play surface. Since the Tovertafel (Dutch for “magic table”) can detect interruptions in its projections, you don’t need anything else, but a communal table and ceiling-mounted projector is a lot for the average living room. That’s fine, since it’s intended for classrooms and offices.

The software is being designed to get kids with autism playing together in therapeutic contexts. The team at Active Cues is working closely with play therapists and kids with autism to create games that can engage and entertain without being overwhelming — games that encourage creative solutions and group play. They’re building off their existing work on the original Tovertafel, for people with late-stage dementia, and Tovertafel UP, for people with severe learning disabilities.

The games created for the original Tovertafel are simple ones that account for the mobility challenges many users are dealing with, and don’t require a lot of gaming experience to enjoy. They encourage actions like cooperating to sweep leaves off a table, fill in pictures, complete jigsaw puzzles or finish sayings. Tovertafel UP increases the educational and active challenge with games about matching animals, connecting constellations or catching fish. The first Tovertafel Unique games are due to be released in this spring.

Legal Cheek recently talked about the Tovertafel project with Active Cue’s John Ramsay. Ramsay recently left a successful legal career to sell the system to care homes in the UK.

‘The results give you unbelievable goosebumps; we’ve had family members break down in tears when they see the effects.’

Unlike his previous life as a lawyer, Ramsay’s new job is very sales-focused (his aim is basically to flog the game to as many UK care homes as possible). What’s also very different is that the Magic Table team is much smaller. Though it is in the process of recruiting sales representatives, the atmosphere does not quite emulate the hustle and bustle of at magic circle office.

In many ways, then, the career change seems quite a leap, but dementia is something very close to Ramsay’s heart. He lost his father, David, ten years ago to the condition.

David was diagnosed with dementia when he was 52-years-old. He lived for ten years after his diagnosis. His final years, Ramsay says, were ‘very difficult.’

The Active Cues team has reviewed research and completed several studies relating to their product and their co-design process. If you’re interested in designing games for people with dementia, or for use in healthcare environments, you should definitely check them out.

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