EA’s Patent Pledge will give competitors free access to accessibility technology

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Electronic Arts is announcing a Patent Pledge where it will give competitors and developers free access to its accessibility-related patents and technology.

That means it won’t keep those inventions exclusive to itself or sue anyone who uses them to make games more accessible for players with disabilities. EA said it was part of its commitment to positive play for everyone.

EA hopes that by opening up its patents, it will encourage others to build new features that make video games more inclusive on a much larger scale than is possible with just one company.

The pledge includes five patents that cover some of EA’s most innovative accessibility technology.

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Above: A player pings a jump pad in Apex Legends, indicating its location to other players.

Image Credit: EA

The patents include the “Ping System” used in Apex Legends, which helps players with speaking, hearing, and cognitive disabilities to communicate to their fellow players in-game. With this system, a player can use a mouse or game controller to mark an item that might be worth picking up, signal a spot on the map to travel to, or mark the location of enemies in the distance.

The ping allows players to communicate contextual audio and visual commands and announcements through simple and mappable controller inputs, rather than a headset and microphone. It has been overwhelmingly welcomed by players in Apex Legends. This system really made Apex Legends into a much more cooperative game, in my opinion, as I’ve used it a lot.

Above: EA’s standard view for Madden NFL.

Image Credit: EA

The pledge also includes three patents that make video games more accessible to players with vision issues (these are already used in games including the Madden NFL and FIFA franchises) as well as a personalized sound technology that helps players with hearing issues by modifying or creating music based on their preferences.

The patented technologies automatically detect and modify the colors, brightness, and contrast in a game to improve the visibility of objects with similar luminosities. This allows players to better perceive and interact with the content.

EA is also open-sourcing source code for a technical solution that similarly addresses colorblindness, brightness, and contrast issues in digital content, in a bid to encourage more industry-wide collaboration and innovation on accessibility in video games. The code can be found on GitHub, and will allow developers across the world to apply EA’s technology directly into their video games, saving significant amounts in research and development costs and encouraging talent across the industry to adapt or build upon the code.

Above: EA’s view for colorblind players.

Image Credit: EA

The fifth patent covered in the pledge relates to personalized sound technology which aims to help players with hearing issues by modifying or creating music based on their hearing preferences and that works to any constraints they may face. EA plans to add future accessibility-centered patents to the pledge over time as well as identify other technologies to make open source.

EA promised not to file a lawsuit against any person or entity (a “Pledge Recipient”) alleging that such Pledge Recipient’s development, manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, lease, license, exportation, importation, or distribution of Accessibility Technology infringes any of the EA Pledged Patents, except in a defensive move.

EA said the pledge is legally binding, irrevocable and enforceable against EA and its successors and assigns. If Electronic Arts transfers an Electronic Arts Pledged Patent to any person or entity, Electronic Arts will require that person or entity to agree, in writing, to abide by the pledge and to require the same of any subsequent transferees. That’s pretty committed.

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