Towards an Equitable Social VR

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering

Abstract

Towards an Equitable Social VR

Social Virtual Reality (SVR) constructs a digital parallel to the physical world, enabling remote social engagement mediated by modern immersive Virtual Reality (VR) technology. This social engagement is not strictly limited to conventional social interaction, but has also recently expanded to include activities such as remote participation in training, work, and service delivery. This digital parallel world offers significant opportunities for greater inclusion of individuals who are currently marginalised by the physical world, thereby widening access to the Digital Economy. SVR is a rapidly emerging technology and its pace of adoption has accelerated in the global pandemic. However, to date, there has been limited research examining the accessibility and inclusion requirements of SVR for users who currently face digital access barriers due to a disability or age-related capability loss. As a society, we sit at a critical juncture where concepts of inclusion and accessibility can be embedded into SVR while the technology is still in its formative stage.

Towards an Equitable Social VR addresses the need to ensure that SVR platforms are accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities and older people, thus allowing for the potential of the platforms in contributing to the quality of life of these population groups to be realised in full. The project will undertake a programme of R&D with the aim of delivering the SVR Inclusion Framework: a collection of formalised guidance and tools serving to facilitate equal participation in SVR for disabled and older users. The project will take into account the whole spectrum of capability loss manifestations, including vision, hearing, mobility, dexterity, and neurodiversity aspects of cognition (learning difficulties) and mental health, as well as the co-occurrence of capability loss.

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