Recap Part One
By Charles LaPierre
The first ever Virtual Reality (VR) Workshop hosted by the W3C at the Samsung offices in San Jose was very well attended and quite engaging. There was a great cross-section of companies represented in this space and showing the latest in Virtual Reality headsets and controllers. During TPAC I attended a VR session and was asked to give a lightning round talk on accessibility at this VR workshop.
I prepared my presentation and was all set to give my talk on how accessibility needs to be built into the foundation of VR but when I started my talk the slides were on a computer with a small screen and the podium was very low so I couldn’t see my slides to give my talk and hold the microphone at the same time. Anssi Kostiainen the co-chair of the WebVR Community group saw I was struggling and came over and lifted my computer and stood there while I gave my presentation so I could see. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect outcome, everyone in the audience suddenly had that “ah-ha” moment where someone could have a situational impairment and that the accessibility stuff I was discussing all of a sudden had even more impact. Although at the time I must admit I was a little rattled by not being able to read my slides and trying then to do so with someone holding a computer in front of me was a little daunting. I was approached multiple times throughout the rest of the conference where people would say that they really got my message, it made them really think about accessibility and it really hit home when Annsi came over and helped me out.
The discussion afterwards was very engaging and a number of people asked great questions such as accommodations for color blindness, deafness, or partial deafness, and there was one comment that we discussed concerning people with limited mobility such as those in a wheelchair not being able to reach hot-spots within the VR world if when they are seated and how the system should be able to accommodate them by either allowing them to add to their height within the VR world or bring the controls closer to their area of mobility. I believe we achieved what we set out to do in that bring accessibility to their attention and included in any charter put forward.
Recap Part Two
By Sue-Ann Ma
In addition to witnessing Charles’ short but impactful presentation at the W3C VR Workshop (and partaking in related discussions), I also attended Stanford’s MediaX conference on Sensing and Tracking for 3D Narratives during this past month. As with prior introductions to potentially game-changing technologies, these two events echoed all-to-familiar questions – what applications (beyond gaming) best utilize this technology? How do we make sure metadata structures and standards are in place? How do we support the production of quality content (particularly for education and/or disability advocacy)? How do support individuals with various needs and preferences (i.e. personalization)? Although advances in VR/AR (virtual reality, augmented reality) have made tremendous strides in recent years, we still have much to learn and define.
So in the meantime, for those of you who might be curious to learn more about different applications of this technology, below are a few interesting examples of VR/AR applications that seemed particularly relevant for the DIAGRAM community.
- A New Way to See, Stephen Hicks – how augmented reality can help those with low vision
- Autism Therapy on Glass project – a Stanford based project training autistic children to identify emotions
- The MS Society’s VR Films Let A Dancer Dance And A Surfer Surf Once Again – how one non-profit is using VR to support members, as well as build empathy and awareness among the broader community
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