Immersion Belt (Product Concept)
(2019, grad coursework)

The Immersion Belt was designed as part of a UI/UX course I took during graduate school. The assignment was to create a tool for accessibility with a broad mandate on how we approached our particular problem. My mind was drawn almost immediately to the sensation of sound and music in games. Many modern games have incredible accessibility features when it comes to audio (Fortnite's sound visualizer comes to mind) but these kinds of considerations aren't as universal as we would like them to be yet. Furthermore, beyond competitive situations, part of the value of game audio is the connection it provides to the experience as a whole.

With that in mind, I designed the Immersion Belt: a gaming peripheral designed to give deaf gamers access to a game's audio content through a haptics-enabled wearable. Aesthetically, the Immersion Belt features LEDs and molded plastics that are in line with other gaming peripherals such as head sets, keyboards and mice, and gaming chairs in an effort to make users feel comfortable with the product. This aesthetic universality may encourage adoption outside of the deaf community; however, this would merely be a plus, as deaf accessibility is the chief concern of this design. 

The control interface for the Immersion Belt is located on the outer module. There is also a companion app available that controls the Immersion Belt via bluetooth. The interface has control for effect intensity, duration, and a simple three-band EQ for filtering out certain frequencies over others to help the user create as precise of an experience as possible that is tailored to their needs.

The immersion belt works by plugging into the audio jack common on modern console controllers. There is also a pass through jack so that audio can be received via a headset as well to accommodate instances of partial deafness where the Immersion Belt can fill in in any specific frequency range that might be needed.

There were limitations to this project in that, as a class assignment, I had little resources available to me for a prototype and beyond personas and research conducted online, I didn't have access to members of the deaf community for feedback. What I did receive helped inform final design decisions such as intensity controls, adjustability of the strap, and placement accommodation beyond the chest. Further problems that needed to be addressed in subsequent iterations would be accommodations for the growing use of spatial audio in online gaming and the ability to use the belt entirely via bluetooth.

 © 2019 by zach buckley.

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