It's hard to play video games if you don't have hands, but one gamer solved the problem by creating a new controller that lets him use his feet to enjoy his favorite games.

Gyorgy Levay teamed up with two of his fellow Johns Hopkins University graduate students to come up with a solution that would allow him to play video games, an ability he lost after a meningitis infection took his hands. The students created a device that resembles a sandal that lets gamers slip it on and play with their feet.

GEAR, or Game-Enhancing Augmented Reality, has three sensors in each adjustable "sandal" that pick up specific foot movements, such as tilting or raising the heel or toes. Circuitry translates each movement into a command, allowing the shoes to control eight game buttons (much like a handheld controller). GEAR's creators, though, hope to increase that to 20 buttons in the future.

Levay and his team chose to work with the feet because they are nearly as dexterous as the hands, meaning that a foot controller would work similarly for those who don't have the use of their fingers.

GEAR also works really well: the team successfully played some of the hottest titles to date: Fallout 4, Gears of War, Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft. They also did a comparison video of GEAR versus handheld controllers and asked viewers if they could tell which was which: 81 percent failed to figure out which gameplay was from a player using GEAR.

GEAR opens up gaming to those with disabilities similar to those Levay has or to those who cannot use their hands efficiently. Levay and his team hope to use their technology to open up the social world of gaming to those who might need it.

"About 200,000 people in the United States alone have lost at least some part of an upper limb, and 20 to 30 percent of all amputees suffer from depression," Levay said. They have a hard time socializing, especially young people."

Levay's team won $7,500 in the 2016 Intel-Cornell Cup and continue to work with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures to get a patent for GEAR. They hope to license the technology in an effort to make it more widely available.

"The GEAR controller allows people to socialize in a way in which their disability is not a factor," Levay said. "That was a key point we wanted to make with this device."

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