Metaverse is the future but will it be kind to disabled people? Should it be the future if everyone can’t participate?
The metaverse is the talk of the town. From social media platforms like Meta to Luxury fashion brands like Gucci, everyone is utilizing this technology to expand their business. The growth of advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Blockchain, Augmented Reality, etc., makes widespread metaverse adoption inevitable. But this raises a very important question, it took decades for personal computers to become usable for blind people or those with motor issues and metaverse still has multiple barriers for the differently-abled. So, in the process of becoming the technology of the future, will metaverse find ways to help disabled people, or will it leave them in the lurch?
The barrier to blindness
People with visual impairments often have issues with absorbing most types of media. In a report by Booktrust, just 7% of books are accessible in designs that help the visually impaired and only 2% are in braille. In movie theatres, blind-accommodating sound depictions are more normal, yet OTT platforms like Netflix just give a quarter of its content in audio descriptive form.
Blend of virtual reality and augmented reality programming is inherently a visual medium. Users with visually impaired glasses usually complain about how uncomfortable VR headsets can be. Now, Meta claims that its next generation of mixed reality headsets will be more comfortable for glasses wearers. But then, will Metaverse ever be accessible to blind people?
3D-audio echo-location, audio descriptive menus, and Haptic Feedback are a few things that could ease the barrier. However, blind metaverse users will have to learn how to interact in a second world. As technology gets more complex, it gets more visual, and it gets less accessible for visually impaired persons.
Here are a few ways virtual reality and augmented reality can help people with disabilities:
Not all people who have hearing or visual weakness have complete hearing or visual misfortune. Most of them just have some type of partial loss, and they can benefit from augmented reality and virtual reality applications intended to improve their senses. AR-enhanced hearing aids can recognize which sound the listener wants to focus on and enhance that sound. Another model is AR glasses that can address visual impairment. Concerning VR, there is Vision Buddy, a TV watching framework that assists individuals with low vision see with better quality.
Advancement of Social Skills
People with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) regularly experience issues communicating socially. They think that it is abnormal and overpowering. The way to conquer this is through training. Project VOISS (Virtual Reality Opportunities to Integrate Social Skills) utilizes virtual reality to re-enact social communication and assist individuals with ASD with rehearsing in a safe environment. This augmented reality experience incorporates everyday conditions and circumstances.
Communication is perhaps the greatest test for individuals with speech and hearing inabilities. A ton of assistive innovation and wearable tech has been created to assist them with communicating better. Presently, VR and AR are expecting to take it to a whole new level.
Capacity to Plan Better
Travelling is tricky for persons with mobility-limiting disabilities. When they travel, they need to ensure that the places they visit are generally accessible. Normal people may not have to think about ramps or wheelchair-accessible toilets, but these are crucial for people with disability. Virtual reality or augmented reality tour of a destination lets them experience a place and check for accessibility issues. This will help them plan accommodations, places to visit, and routes to take. These technologies also help in planning errands and other journeys. This can reduce a disabled person’s anxiety over going out, as they’d know where to find accessible options.
Recovery From Severe Injuries
People with paraplegia understand the reality of never walking again. This drove a group of researchers from Duke University to work on a project, called Walk Again Project, which uses brain-machine interfaces along with a virtual reality system, and aims to help people that have paraplegia.
Even though the metaverse is in its infancy, developers are already working on making it more accessible. For example, interactive interfaces make the metaverse more accessible for people with sensory challenges.
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