Microsoft has developed a product that familiarizes blind children to the world of coding. Called Code Jumper, this product is the outcome of Project Torino, a research project that was beta tested at New College Worcester in 2018. According to Microsoft, Code Jumper offers a physical programming language that upturns coding accessibility. Now, Microsoft is doubling down on its assurance to the disabled by developing “Code Jumper,” a “physical” programming language intended for blind or visually impaired children. Code Jumper allows users to associate physical blocks together to trigger different commands and build functional programs.
Normally, children are introduced to coding with command blocks that are pulled and dropped together to create fun programs; like those proficient of speeding through mazes. But, the prevalent technique wasn’t useful for visually impaired kids because they couldn’t read block commands. This encouraged Microsoft’s Cambridge team to improve block coding under Project Torino and make it handier to blind children. Today, Microsoft announced that it will hand over the research and technology for the project to the nonprofit APH, or American Printing House for the Blind kids, which organizes to bring it to market later this year. When it does, it’s possible to end up both in schools for children who are blind and in mainstream classrooms.
Many blind or visually impaired adults are jobless, but programming can be a good fit for a profession; the challenge can be learning the basics and getting started early. The new tool aims to help cover that gap. “It sets an anticipation for any teacher working with students that there’s no justification,” says Meador. “Students should learn to code, and through this platform, they can.”
“It is very specifically about building up concepts that will enable them to become computer scientists, programmers, software engineers, computational thinkers,” said Cecily Morrison, one of the Microsoft Researchers behind Project Torino, when it launched in 2017. “It gives them that computational base to whatever direction they go, and a shared vocabulary about what computing is.” Microsoft is transferring both the research and tech to the American Printing House for the Blind, which is expected to make the product available to Australia, Canada, India, the U.K. and the U.S. in 2019. Additional countries will get access in the coming years.
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