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EA is opening the patents for some of its accessibility tech

EA is opening the patents for some of its accessibility tech


Including the Apex Legends ping system

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Screenshot of Apex Legends, showing a dessert landscape and a hand holding a knife, with text in the upper right corner that says “you pinged shield battery.”
A player uses the Ping System in Apex Legends to alert their team of the presence of a “Shield Battery”.
Image: Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts is pledging to open the patents for some of its accessibility-related tech, including the much-celebrated Apex Legends ping system, the company announced today. EA says it won’t file infringement lawsuits against people or companies for using tech that falls under patents listed in the pledge. 

The ping system in Apex Legends, which allows people to play the team-based game without hearing or speaking, has been praised both as an impressive alternative to voice chat and as a great accessibility feature for players with a variety of disabilities. A patent that covers the system (US 11,097,189) was issued the same day as EA’s announcement of the pledge. 

Along with the ping system patent, EA is opening patents for the tech it uses in Madden and FIFA to make them more accessible for people with colorblindness and low vision. The tech includes automated systems for improving visibility by detecting and modifying colors (US 10,118,097) and contrast ratios (US 10,878,540).

Screenshot from Madden 21, showing different options of plays, with color contrast adjusted for color blindness.
The Tampa Bay play calling screen in Madden NFL 21 with color blindness settings set to deuteranopia, simulated as seen by someone with red-green color blindness.
Image: Electronic Arts

The pledge also includes a patent for a “personalized sound technology” (US 10,878,540) that will modify or create music for people based on their listening preferences and level of hearing, though EA says this tech hasn’t been developed yet.  

In addition to opening some of its patents, EA is open-sourcing code that helps address issues with brightness, contrast, and colorblindness in digital content. The code is published on EA’s GitHub under the Apache 2.0 license, so developers can use or adapt it for their own games.

“We hope developers will make the most of these patents and encourage those who have the resources, innovation and creativity to do as we have by making their own pledges that put accessibility first,” says Chris Bruzzo, EVP of positive play, commercial, and marketing at EA. “We welcome collaboration with others on how we move the industry forward together.”

EA doesn’t have plans to help other developers implement its tech beyond sharing the patents. “We absolutely respect individual developers and their own expertise in determining how to use our accessibility inventions in a way that works with their software,” says Bruzzo. The company says it plans to add patents for future accessibility-related tech to the pledge, as well as open-sourcing more of its tech.

Update August 24th, 4:02PM ET: Added details about EA’s colorblindness code and how tech sharing will work.