[games_access] Virtual worlds open up to blind

Thomas Westin thomas at pininteractive.com
Wed Sep 19 05:08:24 EDT 2007

nice, now where is Blizzard :)


18 sep 2007 kl. 20.33 skrev Barrie Ellis:

> From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6993739.stm


> Online virtual worlds could soon be accessible to blind people

> thanks to research by students at IBM in Ireland.

> Some estimates predict that 80% of active internet users will be

> using a virtual world in four years' time.


> The company said that it is keen to ensure that blind people are

> not excluded from an environment that sighted people will take for

> granted.


> The students have designed an audio equivalent of the virtual world

> using 3D sound to create a sense of space.


> They were working as part of the company's Extreme Blue research

> initiative which brings groups of students together for 12 weeks to

> solve problem set by senior researchers.


> The project - called Accessibility In Virtual Worlds - is what the

> company describes as "a proof of concept" at this stage, but it

> will be passed on to IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Centre

> in Texas for further development.


> For their work the Irish team decided to use the Active Worlds

> online environment rather than the more popular Second Life (which

> has almost 9.5m accounts) because it allowed them more flexibility.


> Active Worlds is a collection of user-made virtual worlds that

> people can visit via a web browser plug-in. Like many other virtual

> spaces they let people make many of the artefacts, including

> buildings, found in them.


> Audible cues


> The research team exploited this ability to tinker with objects in

> the online world to make it more hospitable to the blind.


> "When the user comes into the world, the items are described as

> well as their positions," explained Colm O'Brien, one of the team

> of four researchers who worked on the project.


> "There is also sound attached - for example, if there's a tree

> nearby you will hear a rustling of leaves," said Mr O'Brien.


> The work also developed tools which uses text to speech software

> that reads out any chat from fellow avatars in the virtual world

> that appears in a text box.


> Characters in the virtual world can have a "sonar" attached to them

> so that the user gets audible cues to alert them to when they are

> approaching, from which direction and how near they are.


> A number of blind mentors have given advice and feedback to the

> team - one in IBM's Dublin lab and two based at IBM's research

> centre in Texas.


> The students have also liaised with the National Council for the

> Blind of Ireland on their work.


> As well as proving that the idea is feasible, the team has made a

> number of recommendations about accessibility standards for virtual

> worlds which should help the developers of the future.


> "IBM believes that virtual worlds are going to be the next big

> evolution of the web and if this happens...it's not right for blind

> people to be missing out on what the rest of us have available,"

> said Mr O'Brien


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