Game Safety , a student solution

Two amazing Pupils from Swanbourne House School in Buckinghamshire - have reached the final of the TeenTech Awards - Sarah and Jemma's idea was highly praised by the judges and they're going to be pitching their idea at the awards final next week.

This is a brilliant idea and if anyone would like to help the girls develop this, please get in touch

Our initial idea was a parental control system which involved using a webcam with facial recognition technology to detect when a child was using the console and to prevent them from playing non age appropriate games. We were keen for our product to work with all consoles and for parents to be able to control access away from the home if required, so Game Safety sends a message to a parent requesting authorisation to enable the console.

To ensure there is a market for our product, we examined some of the figures related to gaming and Internet usage in the UK.

Around 65 million video games are sold in the UK each year

30% of gamers are under 18, however, the most popular games have 18 certificates, are regularly used by primary aged children.

75% of parents are concerned about what their children are doing online,

25% stating that had "no idea" what their children were doing on the Internet

A number of systems exist already to control children's access to consoles. The Microsoft family system  allows accounts for different family members to be setup and different restrictions specified for individuals. For example, time limits could be set to stop children using a device when they should be using homework. Activity reports, including details of websites visited, can also be viewed. 

Finally, some devices do exist to work with all consoles although none allow authorisation from parents remotely, or allow the sharing of gaming content with others.

In order to implement the technology, we examined a number of facial recognition technologies, such as the Intel RealSense 3D camera, which can be used with Windows 10. Unfortunately, these were expensive and can be unreliable; especially if children are attempting to use them. We also examined iris and retina scanners, although the physical scanners were cumbersome and also prohibitively expensive. Initially, we also thought about putting a scanner on a game controller or mouse, although at this stage this proved too complex to implement.

In May, Mr Rickus was delighted to inform us we had the final. We examined the feedback closely and decided on our next steps. Firstly, we spoke with Sarah Cornish, who is Marketing Director at Oxford Playhouse. We discussed with her how to effectively market our product and the importance of having an identifiable brand. This enabled us to design our logo and we decided on the tag line, "keeping your kids safe". Sarah also helped us identify our unique selling points - the thumb scanner and phone communication.

Once we'd decided upon our logo, we spoke with Stuart Ball, Programme Manager for Education at Microsoft. He explained how the Microsoft Family System works and also stressed how he thought there was a need for our product. Stuart identified one of the limitations of the current parental systems was they were one way - parents were simply controlling access and got no feedback, so we included a camera, which allows children to share their gaming experience with their parents.

Our prototype is powered by a Raspberry Pi, which connects using the GPIO ports to the BBC
micro:bit to display status messages. The Energenie control board also connects to the GPIO board to control the plug's power. Finally, the camera allows the child to share their gaming experience with a parent.

If a child's thumb is scanned, it will send a message to a parent's phone… Once a "yes" message arrives, the console will be enabled for a specific period of time… during this period, there will be an opportunity to take a photo via the camera to share the child's gaming experience. Now if an adult scans their thumb, it will display a message and enable the console.

We envisage the device can be manufactured for less than £10, although we're in the process of looking at cheaper cameras and this could be an optional extra. Each of the main components costs around £2 each depending on the quantities ordered. We need to ensure the plug cannot be removed from the Energenie controller, so a locking mechanism could be put in place. Having spoken to our DT teacher, this could be achieved using a simple hinge and sturdy plastic. At the moment, the user details are part of the code, so we need to write an interface to allow the initial setup of the device, such as scanning fingerprints, specifying phone numbers and timings for play. We also wish to have messages and photographs sent via other platforms, such as Twitter, if age appropriate. Since the recent launch of the Pi Zero, our prototype can be made smaller and would be suitable for trialling with a small customer base.

Finally, we need to identify sales channels and marketing strategy.

Good luck in the final.



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