Unique game controller tops Good Design Australia Awards

L-R: David Hobbs with Max Hughes, 2014 Hills Young Australian Designer of the Year, and the ‘Orby’ game controllers
A novel device that enables children with a disability to play computer games has won its designer, Mr Max Hughes, the title of the 2014 Hills Young Australian Designer of the Year and a $10,000 prize.

Both Mr Hughes and ‘Orby’ took centre stage at the 2014 Good Design Australia Awards Gala Dinner, the Australian design industry’s premier event held in Sydney last night.

‘Orby’ – an ‘orb’ shaped gaming controller – is the result of a collaboration between Flinders University, the University of South Australia and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

The controller allows children with a disability such as cerebral palsy to play games that would usually be too difficult because of the fine motor skills required to use a traditional games controller. The player uses both hands to manipulate a soccer ball-sized dome and doesn’t require the player to press small, fiddly buttons to play the games.

The concept of an easy-to-use, accessible controller was the brainchild of Flinders University Lecturer and Rehabilitation Engineer, Mr David Hobbs, who initiated the collaborative project and supervised it with Mr Sandy Walker, an industrial designer from the University of South Australia.

Mr Hughes began working on the project as a University of South Australia student before being employed by Flinders University as a graduate industrial designer. He now works as a designer in the private sector.

Mr Hobbs said the ability to play computer games allowed children with disabilities to participate in a mainstream, ‘normal’ and socially-binding activity.

“This is a brilliant result for Max and for ‘Orby’,” Mr Hobbs said.

“Every child that’s been a part of the trial has loved ‘Orby’. Watching their faces light up when using the controller has been extremely rewarding, and we can see firsthand the difference we are making.

“Taking a product from concept to design to commercialisation is a complex process, and winning a national award offers enormous encouragement for South Australian engineers and designers pursuing a range of projects that aim to improve life for people with disabilities, and for children in particular.”

Mr Hughes said that he was “thrilled and overwhelmed” at his win and cited the project as an example of how design can be used to improve the lives of people from all backgrounds, every day.

The Hills Young Australian Design Award is a new national design award for young designers, engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs. The Awards aim to inspire a new generation of Australian designers and thinkers and help foster a culture of design, innovation and creativity.

‘Orby’ is on display until 9 June in the Good Design Awards Lounge at 140 George Street, Sydney, next to the Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of the VIVID Festival.

For more information about ‘Orby’ and the accessible gaming system for children with hand impairments, contact lead researcher, Mr David Hobbs.

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