tech2 News StaffMar 20, 2017 09:26:35 IST
Microsoft designers and researchers at the company's lab in Cambridge, UK are working on a unique system that allows children with visual impairments to code. Children have access to simple programs that allows them to drag and drop blocks of commands to create programs. Microsoft has created a physical version of these digital tools, that children can link up and manipulate through touch alone.
The system, called Project Torino, allows for children to tangibly code irrespective of whether or not they have visual impairments. Project Torino also helps children with learning disabilities to take up programming. Cecily Morrison, one of the researchers working on the project says "One of our key design principles was inclusion. We didn’t want to isolate these kids again. The idea was to create something that a whole mainstream class could use, and they could use together."
The benefits of the program are two fold. There is a skill gap in the tech industry and a dearth of workers with the technical capabilities of developing programs. There are just not enough engineers to meet the requirements of tech companies. At the same time, it is challenging for people with visual impairments to find meaningful and accessible career paths. Only one in four blind UK residents have paid jobs.
The system was tested for over a year with a small group of 12 students. The team made improvements to the system based on the feedback of the children, such as making the blocks larger, and giving them colours. Not all visually impaired children are completely blind, and the coloured blocks helped those with limited visibility. The system is now going to be tested with a larger group of hundred students.
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