• November 27, 2021

EA Shares Five Innovations Through Accessibility Patent Pledge, Wants Other Developers To Do The Same

Today, Electronic Arts announced that it will share five patents for its previously protected technology, making them available to all developers and publishers for free.

The initiative, called First Accessibility Patent Promise, includes five solutions that the company’s own developers have invented to make their games more accessible to people with disabilities or medical problems, including anyone with various vision, hearing, speech or cognitive problems.

Shared patents include:

  • Context-Sensitive Communications Systems in Video Games (Patent No. US 11,097,189), which includes Apex Legends’ widely praised Ping system.
  • Systems and Methods for Automated Image Processing for Images with Similar Luminosity (Patent No. US 10,118,097 and CN 107694092), which helps address color vision deficiencies.
  • Contrast Ratio Detection and Reproduction System (Patent No. US 10,878,540), which covers a system that automatically detects and updates subpart contrast rations, again helping with visibility.
  • Real-time custom audio generation based on the user’s physiological response (Patent No. US 10,790,919), which covers technology that plays personalized music based on the user’s hearing impairment. Although it is patented, EA has not developed it yet.

The company has said that additional patents may be added to the compromise at a later date.

It has also published the source code for a separate technical solution that addresses color blindness, brightness and contrast issues in digital content. on GitHub.

Chris Bruzzo, EA

EA Executive Vice President of Positive Gaming, Business and Marketing Chris Bruzzo told GamesIndustry.biz that the benefit of patents is that other developers will be able to access “a lot of detail about how the technology works, why it works in the way he does it, which means incorporating it in a way that works effectively in his games. “

He also hopes it will “create a collective” among game developers, urging other studios to share their own technologies in a similar way.

“We want to promote this, we want to bring others,” he says. “It’s like ‘Here’s a technology we’ve invented and it has value in the world, what do you have?’ Let us contribute and authorize these innovations among ourselves for the good of players around the world. “

While you use the word ‘license’, it is crucial to emphasize that these patents are freely available. There are no license fees to use them in other games, nor do you have to pay royalties to EA.

The publisher has even promised not to file lawsuits against anyone who uses these patents.

It’s a rare move, but Bruzzo believes it’s important to advance the technology used to make video games more accessible to players of all abilities.

“Yes, patents create property, create protection, and ensure that inventors’ ideas remain intact,” he says. “In some software environments, that involves license fees … [But] our approach when it comes to accessibility is to make this technology available to everyone. “

“Here is a technology that we have invented that has value in the world. What do you have? Let us contribute innovations to each other for the good of players around the world.”

It’s an unusual initiative, especially in an industry that has historically been protected by the technology and innovations behind its games. Warner Bros, for example, spent the better part of a decade trying to protect the Nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor, finally succeeding earlier this year.

EA still has many patents to its name and will undoubtedly continue to seek this form of protection for its ideas; All of that is part of keeping a business running, says Bruzzo. But when it comes to accessibility, the publisher wants to see more shared solutions for the benefit of the industry.

“Why do gaming companies protect their technology, their intellectual property, the brands they have created? It is so that they can continue to profit, collect revenue and benefit from what they have invented, what they have created to be able to do more of it, so they can pay their game developers, “acknowledges Bruzz.

“Honestly, I don’t know if this is more or less competitive [than other industries]. In the health sector, things are holding up pretty well. In terms of secrets, inventions, advances and patents … Frankly, in the case of software in general, companies are very protective of the investments they make in R&D to continue benefiting from them. I don’t know if the gaming industry is particularly competitive compared to other industries. “

Accessibility has become an increasingly important discussion in games in recent years. From the efforts of studios like Uncharted and The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog or Marvel’s Spider-Man studio Insomniac to the Xbox Adaptive Controller released by Microsoft, big companies are finding new ways to break down barriers. for gamers around the world.

It’s also worth remembering that, two years ago, the game-specific exemptions in the 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act expired, meaning that all video games available in the U.S. must meet the guidelines of FCC accessibility.

Apex Legends' Ping system not only makes multiplayer shooter games more accessible, it also fights toxicity, and is now free for any developer.

Apex Legends’ Ping system not only makes multiplayer shooter games more accessible, it also fights toxicity, and is now free for any developer.

But the conversation goes beyond those with recognized disabilities. Even non-disabled players will have problems of their own when it comes to gaming, so even the slightest change, for example in text size and user interface, can open titles to more people.

“I don’t think our work is ever done as an industry in [accessibility]”

“It is reported that 15% of the world’s population has some disability that would affect their ability to play our games in the way that others can,” says Bruzzo. “So it is quite a large and important area that we have to consider.

“But then you go to the next level of accessibility, which is’ Well, what about everyone else who maybe doesn’t have such a direct disability or something that is holding them back, but generally feels that the games are not accessible?

“I think that’s the most important question and to be honest, I don’t think our work is ever done as an industry on that, but there are some very important things that are happening now.”

Bruzzo points to the Apex Legends ping system as an excellent example. The game assigns contextual text and audio commands to a wheel accessed via the D-pad, allowing players to convey vital information within the game without the need for verbal communication.

“That makes things accessible and exciting for everyone, including people who would have a hard time communicating with others,” says Bruzzo. “But what it also does is remove a lot of toxicity. Suddenly you can communicate, you can have a community experience … devoid of sexism or hate speech. It’s not there, because the Ping system is really designed to foster collaboration and improve the play.

“And you could say ‘Well that’s quite limiting, what about the concept of free speech and being able to express yourself in any way you want?’ Actually, who says it’s a requirement? Why is it a requirement in video games? If I play with two other people in Apex Legends, why is it a requirement for me to be able to express myself in some way, especially if it means I’m infringing on your ability to have fun playing. That is not an obligation we have, we are not obliged to give you that freedom. What we are trying to do is create environments where everyone can enjoy the experience to the fullest. “

“That’s why we created Positive Play … We’re trying to make games more accessible because honestly right now, women in general, when I survey them, don’t feel particularly welcome in multiplayer games. Especially if their gender is revealed in some way. or another. They don’t feel very welcome. “

We will have more from Bruzzo on Positive Play and other topics in our full interview later this week. You can Learn more about EA’s first accessibility patent pledge here..

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