UCF professors and nonprofit organization Limbitless Solutions have received an Epic MegaGrant from Epic Games, known for operating Fortnite and developing Unreal Engine.
Limbitless Solutions is known for developing expressive, 3D-printed arms and accessibility-focused video game training. Their training games directly support producing and delivering cost-free prosthetic limbs for the limb-difference community.
Epic’s Unreal Engine is the world’s most open and advanced real-time 3D tool. Unreal is used to deliver cutting-edge video games and interactive experiences, and finds application in diverse industries like film and television, architecture, automotive, manufacturing and simulation.
This groundbreaking initiative, titled “Project Inventor: Bionic Training Games for Children with Limb Differences,” is led by Associate Professor Matt Dombrowski ’05 ’08 MFA, head of creative arts and media at Limbitless Solutions within UCF’s School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD), and Peter Smith ’05 ’12 Ph.D., head of game development and training at Limbitless Solutions and associate professor at UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media (NSCM).
Their training games aim to teach users of prosthetics how to refine their muscle flexes, reducing effort and enabling them to perform multiple gestures with their bionic limbs. The games are designed to be unique and enjoyable with a collaborative gameplay style, making the training process fun and engaging for the users.
Limbitless Solutions commits to improving the lives of individuals with limb differences by providing innovative and cost-free solutions. This Epic MegaGrant further supports Limbitless Solutions’ mission and will continue their efforts between academia and game development to impact the limb-difference community positively. With the support, the team will develop a party-style game to train users to use their prosthetics.
“Making a party-style game in Unreal Engine will help the bionic kids both by providing a multiplayer experience that can engage both the kids and their friends and families,” Smith says. “This extra support will add motivation to play. This game style comprises many mini-game experiences that will add variation to the gameplay, improving replayability. From a developer perspective, it will provide many opportunities for our developers to make smaller experiences and allow new students to complete a game experience in a semester.”
Why is the MegaGrant important?
Limbitless is deeply committed to creating interactive, engaging, inclusive and versatile training experiences. They prioritize accessibility by ensuring their training games can be developed and accessed across all platforms, including PC, tablets and mobile devices. This access ultimately benefits the communities that their games serve. The Epic MegaGrant allows Limbitless to expand its interactive capabilities and reach a broader audience. The MegaGrant will be utilized exclusively to support UCF undergraduate students who will contribute to the game’s development. Compensation for creative work is often a challenge for students in the creative arts field. Both UCF and Limbitless firmly believe in supporting all disciplines and providing opportunities for students to work on nationally recognized projects that positively impact others.
“We are thrilled to continue to involve our talented UCF undergraduate students in the development process,” Dombrowski says. “Allowing students to see their creative efforts make a significant difference in an underrepresented community is invaluable for young designers. As these students eventually move on from Limbitless and UCF, we hope they carry forward the same empathetic design approach, enriching their future professional careers.”
“We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Epic MegaGrants program,” says Limbitless Solutions executive director and co-founder Albert Manero ’12’ 14MS’ 16PhD. “Developing new gamified training methods will enable our participants to accelerate their use of the bionic limb in a low-stress and exciting virtual environment.”
Since 2015, Limbitless has involved over 300 interns under the mentorship of Dombrowski, Smith, Manero, and other Limbitless administrators. Limbitless games team alums have gone on to work professionally at companies such as Electronic Arts, Naughty Dog, Take 2, Sony, Riot, Activision/Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Steamroller Studios, Artix and more.
Thanks to Epic MegaGrants, Limbitless Solutions can now continue to expand its game catalog to a larger audience. Limbitless Solutions is passionately devoted to supporting the disabled community with the MegaGrant and will continue to evolve the pipeline into Unreal Engine by establishing an Unreal-developed game for future Limbitless clinical trials. For patients participating in clinical trials, video games become an essential component to learn and develop their control of the prosthetic’s multi-gesture capabilities. Through the training, participants level up and unlock new gestures.
Learn more about Limbitless Solutions at limbitless-solutions.org