Virtual Reality in Use Today:
- Google Maps now offers Street View via virtual reality. And Google Business View takes people inside of restaurants, departments stores and even movie and TV sets.
- Honor Everywhere has created VR experiences for aging or terminally ill WWII veterans so they can virtually visit war memorials.
- There are VR systems which enable wheelchair users to navigate a virtual world, for example a busy street or shopping center, to learn how to move around and avoid obstacles in a virtual setting before putting these into practice in the real world.
- Virtual Reality for Children with Disabilities: Technological advances, including the use of virtual reality, have contributed enormously to improving the treatment, training, and quality of life of children with disabilities. This paper (www.cybertherapy.info/ves%20in%20clinical%20psycho/McComas.doc.pdf) describes the advantages of VR for children with disabilities, how VR can minimize the effects of a disability, the role of VR in training and skills enhancement, and how social participation and the child’s quality of life may be improved through the use of VR.
- Researchers at The University of Haifa, Israel have developed a system that features a number of scenarios designed to teach autistic children how to cross a road. Virtual reality is also used to help autistic children with social attention problems.
- Vanderbilt VR Adaptive Driving Intervention Architecture (VADIA) virtual reality simulator is specifically designed to help teenagers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) learn to drive
- The University of Georgia and the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a program called BreakThru to help students with disabilities pursue STEM careers.
- Virtual Reality is being found to be useful in testing the design of buildings for disabled access before they are built.
Virtual Reality Viewers
For around $15 anyone can buy a VR cardboard headset, download a free mobile phone app, slide in the phone and explore virtual worlds from a wheelchair, bed or couch - Google Cardboard
Google Cardboard VR headset, shown assembled with an iPhone 6s in the visor slot. Google Cardboard is an inexpensive container and plastic lenses designed to turn a phone or small tablet into a VR headset.
Oculus Rift headset
Oculus Rift is a head-mounted display for VR and gaming purposes developed by Oculus VR, an American technology company that was acquired by Facebook in 2014.
In 2015, Valve Corporation announced their partnership with HTC to make a VR headset capable of tracking the exact position of its user in a 4.5 by 4.5 meter area, the HTC Vive. Update Nov 12, 2016: Chinese company TPCAST has just unveiled an add-on to the HTC Vive which makes the VR headset completely wireless.
Sony Playstation Virtual Reality
The Playstation VR (Morpheus) requires a PS4 instead of a PC to run.
There are many other gaming VR headsets on the market, and in development, each with their own special abilities.
A Word of Warning
Virtual reality is fairly new technology and still faces a number of challenges, including possible motion sickness and technical matters. Users can get disoriented in a virtual environment causing balance issues, computer latency can affect simulations, head-mounted displays and input systems such as specialized gloves and boots may require specialized training to operate, and navigating the non-virtual environment (if the user is not confined to a limited area) can be dangerous without external sensory information.
However, this new technology may open creative pathways for users in ways we don't even realize yet, and for people with disabilities virtual reality might be another route to inclusion...
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