• 30Aug

    Virtual Ability Island

    I had the opportunity to attend a presentation today by Louise Later, who demonstrated two scripted objects, still in development, designed to help people with limited or no vision enjoy Second Life. Given that many sighted people find Second Life challenging to use, one can only imagine the unique difficulties of using it without visual feedback!

    The objects — your choice of mobility cane or guide dog — use repurposed sensor and warp scripts to let users navigate and learn about their Second Life surroundings without any visual feedback. The sensor script can scan the surroundings for objects and avatars and output their names into your chat history, where EVA (an SL-specific screen reader) will then read them aloud to you, allowing you to hear a list of everything around you. The warp script can move you to an object or person, or move you through a series of locations (e.g. orientation displays). It can also continuously follow another avatar, perfect for getting a tour of the world from a sighted friend!

    Louise told us that a core team of seven programmers, many of them blind* themselves, have developed the scripts, supported by Virtual Ability. They’re looking for additional help (especially more scripters) so if you’re interested in volunteering a bit of your time to a worthwhile and rather interesting cause, send an IM to Louise Later in SL!

    * Update 2008-09-07: Louise informs me that only one programmer is totally blind, while she herself is legally blind. But, almost everyone in the group is disabled in some way.

    The cane and guide dog objects are available for free at Wheelies. Virtual Ability runs Virtual Ability island, a beautiful tropical island sim with a thorough SL orientation tutorial (with both written signs and audio information!), and the famous Heron Sanctuary.

    Posted by Jacek Antonelli @ 8:07 pm

9 Responses

  • Pathfinder Linden Says:

    Outstanding work. Just amazing.

  • Accessible Second Life | Sam's Stuff Says:

    [...] virtual world to suck up hours and hours of my time. Apparently, a group of folks has created scripts to make second life accessible to blind users. Interestingly, this happened in august, yet it completely failed to draw the [...]

  • AWM Mars Says:

    I cannot imagine what it must be like to be blind… only maybe the fear of it.
    When I hear of such technology openning up the world to those that maybe considered less fortunate than myself.. I have to applaud this from the roof tops. This surely allows the rest of the world to benefit from the experience and talents, that those without sight, have to offer, only hindered by the lack of something the vast majority of us, take for granted.
    Congratulations :¬)

  • Jarek Dejavu Says:

    Only wanted to correct the link to my E.V.A. voice interface. It’s http://www.secondife.sk/EVA

  • Jacek Antonelli Says:

    @Jarek: Oops, that link seems to be broken. I also tried http://www.secondlife.sk/EVA (with an L), but that didn’t work either.

  • Jarek Dejavu Says:

    Oops – try again please, I have fixed it.

  • Jarek Dejavu Says:

    yeah, it is http://www.secondlife.sk/EVA of course, not SECONDDIFE :D ROFL

  • Jacek Antonelli Says:

    Thanks Jarek. I’ve updated the link in the article. :)

  • Louise Later Says:

    Thank you so much for your support, folks!

    I am including a link to this page in the Linden Prize application. Max is wagging his tail in eager anticipation of guiding people into a truly new frontier: Second Life.

    And there are a lot of people waiting for him! According to the American Federation of the Blind, “The exact figure from the 2006 National Health Interview Survey was 21.2 million Americans who reported experiencing vision loss”(see afb.org). The report from the World Health Organization is even darker: “An estimated 180 million people world-wide are visually disabled. Of those, between 40 and 45 million persons are blind. Due to growing populations and ageing, these numbers are expected to double by the year 2020 making a colossal human tragedy even worse, stalling development and denying a basic human right . . . Every five seconds one person in the world goes blind. One child goes blind every minute. It is estimated that over seven million people become blind every year.” (see http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/pr79/en/)

    But as Helen Keller said, “Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained though self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

    Making the Immersive Internet accessible to all is indeed a “worthy purpose.” If Helen were alive today, I KNOW she would have an avatar in Second Life™

    Have a great SL day, everyone!