Prioritizing accessibility in "The Smartest at Home" app

On July 31st, it's happening. Loyal viewers of De Slimste Mens ("The Smartest Person") already have the start of the new season marked in their calendars. The app of this popular quiz has been a big success among avid players for years. Up until now, the game in this app could only be played individually against each other or the computer.

Now, there's a second variant available: De Slimste Thuis ("The Smartest at Home"). This game can also be played as a party game. And good news: this game is entirely voice-controlled and accessible for players with a visual impairment.

Promotional image of the new voice function. © KRO-NCRV

Voice-controlled gameplay

Many players in the app wanted to play the quiz with friends, engaging in live competition. Until now, the app could only be used individually. Blind and visually impaired users of "De Slimste Mens" indicated that this app was less accessible for them.

Yaniv Wolf, project leader at KRO-NCRV: "For us, these user comments were valuable signals because inclusivity is very important. That's why we decided to improve the existing 'De Slimste Mens' app in terms of accessibility."

He continues: "Additionally, we developed a new game suitable for live play and accessible to users with a visual impairment. This was a long-standing desire. The new game is called 'De Slimste Thuis' and can be found in the 'De Slimste Mens' app."

Screenshot van het homescherm van De Slimste Mens app, er wordt een melding getoond over de nieuwe spraakfunctieScreenshot of the home screen of the "De Slimste Mens" app, showing a notification about the new voice function.

This app is free to download via the App Store and Google Play. You play the game with your phone, and everything is fully controllable with voice by the players. You can play the game wherever you want: at home, in the car, or on the beach. Just place your phone on the table, and two or more players can compete against each other. All questions are read aloud, and each player gives oral answers.

Yaniv: "The initial reactions are very enthusiastic; players especially enjoy playing live against each other. And because everyone gets the questions read aloud, players with and without visual impairment have an equal chance of winning. It's an equal playing field for everyone."

Testing with experts and users

Simultaneously with the development of "De Slimste Thuis," the existing "De Slimste Mens" app was also improved. This app works with written text and is played individually. The player type answers on their phone.

Yaniv: "Improving the existing app and building a new voice-controlled game simultaneously allowed us to learn from our own experience. Adjusting and developing both parts simultaneously was very efficient for us."

He continues: "Abra's kick-off training for developers at the beginning was very helpful. Additionally, the feedback after the accessibility audit was very concrete and immediately applicable. Technical assistance was also available when needed."

Working together with external parties that built the apps, we could quickly adapt, and the development process went smoothly.

Both games were then extensively tested by users with a visual impairment in collaboration with the Accessibility Foundation.

Yaniv: "Such a test is very important, and fortunately, the games came out surprisingly well in the user tests. Only small adjustments needed to be made. The app is already free to download, we expect a lot of users when the new season starts on television."

Screenshot van De Slimste Thuis functie waarbij je met spraak antwoord geeftScreenshot of the "De Slimste Thuis" function where you answer with voice.

Making a TV quiz digital

What challenges were there in making a TV quiz suitable for voice?

Yaniv: "We were able to use the voice technology in smartphones, which has improved tremendously in recent years. Previously, voice-controlled operation via smart speakers was used, but it never really became successful in The Netherlands. Now, we use the existing technology in smartphones, making it much more accessible to a large audience."

"Transforming a quiz into voice, enjoyable for players with and without a visual impairment, requires specific adjustments. Game-wise, a picture round is not possible. And a complicated word puzzle is also undoable. That's why some game elements were developed specifically for 'De Slimste Thuis.'"

"We adjusted the puzzle round so that it can be played without seeing the words. And we revived the old game round 'Ingelijst' (Framed). A part where players have to take turns naming things in a specific category. It works well with voice and is fun as a party game."

"There were also technical challenges during development. Like on television, unclearly pronounced answers or synonyms must be counted as correct. And answers that are not specific enough are considered wrong. This means building a huge database with correct and incorrect answer possibilities for all questions. And all questions that the computer couldn't pronounce correctly had to be removed."

Author Martin Rombouts has won the 21st season of "De Slimste Mens." © KRO-NCRV

Enthusiastic reactions

The reactions from the first players of "De Slimste Thuis" are very enthusiastic. Players particularly appreciate playing live against each other and the fact that there is no difference between people with and without a visual impairment. After all, the questions are only heard and answered orally by every player.

When "De Slimste Mens" is back on television daily, and the app is mentioned in every episode, KRO-NCRV expects even more players. And the real enthusiasts can keep playing the app endlessly because the questions are regularly updated and added!

We are proud of this wonderful collaboration and inclusive app.