CEO, Sonnar Interactive Ltd
Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Video games are becoming more popular and advanced each year. But until now games for visually impaired users have been far more limited and simplistic. AUT Doctor of Philosophy student Jarek Beksa aims to change that.
“I was motivated by a comment by a blind gamer who said, ‘Nobody makes games for us.’ I did some research, and noticed that while there are games for visually impaired users, most of them are of very poor quality. I wanted to change this. That’s how the Audio Game Hub was born.
“It initially started as a prototype for my PhD, designed to perform usability studies and evaluate its potential. However, we discovered something amazing – over 50,000 people from around the world were loving it.”
Challenging conventional thinking
Since its inception, the Audio Game Hub has released eight audio mini games for both non-sighted and sighted users, and it continues to change the world of gaming.
“Since our launch, we’ve adapted multiple genres of video games into accessible audio equivalents, each with unique interaction patterns and gameplay mechanics. Our app has had over 50,000 downloads, as well as excellent reviews and feedback.”
The app has already collected an impressive number of awards, including winning the AUT VenturesInnovation Challenge 2015 and the Representation Award at the Play by Play International Games Festival. It was a finalist in the Lighting Lab Auckland start-up accelerator programme, and was voted app of the month by the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the UK.
“The Audio Game Hub couldn’t have been created without AUT’s support, and I appreciate the funding for app development we’ve received,” Jarek says.
A creative and open-minded environment
He would highly recommend AUT for postgraduate study.
“Before I came to New Zealand, I worked for a major telecommunications company in Poland, but I wanted a break from corporate life and decided to follow my dreams. I chose AUT because it’s the most innovative and creative university in New Zealand, and offered great conditions for my PhD,” says Jarek who came to AUT as an international student from Poland, supported by an AUT Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship.
“I love the atmosphere, the attitude and the people at AUT! It’s a good environment to unlock your creative potential. I also appreciate the guidance from my supervisor Dr Philip Carter who has led me through the PhD project, but also trusted me and let me experiment with our games.”
In addition to his studies, Jarek continues to explore accessibility in entertainment through his role as CEO of start-up Sonnar Interactive.