Microsoft has developed a product that introduces blind children to the world of coding. Called Code Jumper, this product is the result of Project Torino, a research project that was beta tested at New College Worcester in 2018. According to Microsoft, Code Jumper presents a physical programming language that increases coding accessibility.
Project Torino was tested by New College Worcester, a UK institution with blind and low vision students. Following that testing, Microsoft has developed Code Jumper, the device that features knobs, buttons, and wires that connect together plastic pods. Thanks to these physical components, blind students are able to create their own programs for various functions that include playing music and telling stories.
The system is designed to teach children basic programming skills, including things like variables, sequence, selection, and iteration. As well, the product helps these students learn to “think computationally,” according to Microsoft, offering multiple ways to solve the same issues as one example.
Microsoft plans to hand off Code Jumper, including the technology and research, to Kentucky-based American Printing House for the Blind. The nonprofit organization will make Code Jumper available to students globally over the next half-decade, primarily targeting children ages 7 to 11.
The big benefit to Code Jumper, of course, is its ability to help kids learn basic programming skills that could lead to a future career in coding. Though other systems for the visually impaired exist, they are described as clunky, out of date, or inadequate for meeting the needs of someone who is blind or has low vision.