The pods act as a way to build programs by connecting blocks of code together. (Image via Microsoft)

 

In 2017, Microsoft announced a new project called Torino which is a physical programming language that helps those with visual impairments learn coding basics. The program was only limited to the United Kingdom, but it was an experimental program that had massive potential for accessibility. Microsoft announced that it's turning the project including all research and technology behind it under a new name, Code Jumper over to the American Printing House for the Blind, a non-profit organization that helps people who struggle with visual impairments. They will be expanding Code Jumper by bringing it into other countries like the US, Canada, Australia, and India by the end of the year with plans to bring it all over the world in the upcoming five years.

 

Both Torino and Code Jumper give users something similar to block coding - a drag and drop interface that helps young kids get into coding. The language requires users to connect large plastic pods together that can create programs instead of through a screen. The project was developed for those aged 7 to 11. They can create songs, poetry and sounds themselves with the system.

 

The technology is focused on enabling those with challenges from visual impairments, dyslexia and autism to learn certain concepts to become programmers, computer scientists, software engineers, etc. The system is also meant to grow with kids once the physical programming language has been perfected. They have also created an app that enables them to transfer code they've done with the physical system then turning it into text. They can use other assistive technologies to help with coding after transferring their code over.

 

There is also a curriculum for teachers wanting to use the system. Teachers are not required to have a computer science background to use it and most teachers probably won't have any knowledge in coding.

 

 

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