Compared to VR, other technologies offer more tools and help to visually-impaired people. One example is the alternative text found on website images, and another is Google TalkBack, which adds spoken, audible and haptic feedback to help visually-impaired people interact with their devices. With these technologies as inspiration, we created an audio tool aimed at making VR more accessible.
To test our prototype, we challenged participants to find and pick up a toy laser gun within the virtual room, navigate to the window, and finally shoot at a duck moving outside the window. We ran six non-visually-impaired people through the prototype, and all of them were able to complete the challenge successfully. After the task was completed, four of them went through the experience again, this time able to see the room without vision impairment. Because they had navigated the room by sound, we found that they were already familiar with their surroundings.
It’s a small step, but this experiment demonstrated that it’s possible to navigate and interact with a room in VR using only auditory cues. We hope others will also continue to explore ways to make VR accessible for everyone. There’s much more to do in this area!
You can find more details in our published technical disclosure.