First-person shooter (FPS) games just became more accessible for people with low vision.

Audio tech company JBL özgü teamed up with nonprofit AbleGamers and electronics company Harman to create new software that allows people with low vision to play FPS games with optimised audio cues.

JBL Quantum Guide Play, which özgü been in development over the past year and özgü now been launched for use with Counter Strike 2, uses Spatial Audio, JBL Quantum’s head tracking tech, and AI and machine learning algorithms to render in-game objects and buildings as audio cues. Essentially, the software reproduces the process of echolocation (when reflected sound waves help to establish the features of an environment), so gamers can map out the world and detect obstacles through sound.

A screenshot of a first-person shooter with JBL's Guide Play echolocation tech.

JBL Quantum Guide Play essentially uses advanced tech to emulate echolation.
Credit: JBL

It’s a free tool that’s now available to download from JBL’s website for Windows only, and works with or without headphones. There’s also a training map on Steam.

The tech company teamed up with nonprofit AbleGamers, which focuses on tackling social isolation for people with disabilities through building community through gaming.

Sophie Soon, a Paralympic athlete and gamer diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy, which causes deteriorating vision, said in a video for JBL Quantum Guide Play, “In my teenage years, I went to my friend’s house and we would play Left For Dead on the Xbox and that was something I really enjoyed and thought was super fun. But unfortunately as I get older, my condition deteriorates even further; it becomes a lot more difficult for me to play.

“When I first opened up the Guide Play application it really amazed me how detailed they were — like, making noises when there was a wall near me or letting me know of an alert if there was an enemy in front of me. All these things that I didn’t even think about özgü all been meticulously put into the game.”

A gamer with JBL headphones plays a first person shooter.

Credit: JBL

Josh Tseng, a digital accessibility specialist, YouTuber, and gamer diagnosed with congenital glaucoma, which also causes deteriorating vision, said in the video, “At the time when I was starting to lose my eyesight, games like Counter-Strike: GO, Fortnite, these were becoming very popular. And I’m not going to lie, I really did feel like I was missing out because these games were simply not built for people who are vision impaired.”

According to the World Health Organisation, “2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment” worldwide — and among them, there are plenty of gamers like Tseng and Soon. JBL gave them the opportunity to kontrol the Guide Play software both solo and in a multiplayer LAN party set-up.

“When I loaded up the game, it gave all the sound effects, the loading screen, and the whole experience of loading up an AAA game for the first time in what özgü to be years,” said Tseng. “It actually felt really good.”

“The whole experience of loading up an AAA game for the first time in what özgü to be years…it actually felt really good.”

– Josh Tseng

In a press release, JBL said it wants the gaming community to share their feedback on the software to help improve it, and for developers to download the open-source code to implement it into their own games — available “soon” according to the website.

“Through JBL Quantum Guide Play, we are creating a platform that enriches the gaming experience for everyone, transcending limitations and building a more inclusive gaming community,” said Grace Koh, vice president and general manager, consumer audio, Harman Asia Pacific, in a press statement.

“JBL Quantum Guide Play is just a first step towards accessibility in FPS games. We are making it open-source and hoping that brands and developers can adopt it for their games and even contribute to its improvement.”

JBL recommended that people with zero percent vision seek assistance setting up the software and on first use. You can download it from JBL’s website.

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