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The metaverse should also work for people with disabilities. Meta supports a research project that aims to advance the inclusive metaverse.
The “Social Virtual Reality” project is concerned with increasing accessibility in VR for people with disabilities, senior citizens, or those impaired by illness. In particular, the group looks at social VR apps such as VRChat, Rec Room, or Horizon Worlds.
Social VR can improve quality of life
“The buzzing world of SVR has the potential to open up a wide array of opportunities for disabled and older people to engage with life and improve its quality,” explains project leader Dr. Vanja Garaj.
The Brunel Design School research director sees great potential in social VR apps. In addition to simple entertainment, for example, social VR combats loneliness. Improving employment prospects for people with disabilities through VR training or VR online education is also possible, she says.
A framework for an inclusive metaverse
The research team aims to develop a “Social Virtual Reality Inclusion Framework” within the next three years. This will include tools and guidance on how to make the metaverse more accessible for elders, people with vision or hearing loss, dexterity or mobility issues, mental illness, cognitive impairments, or learning disabilities.
One such approach is already offered by the VR app WalkinVR, which makes current VR hits such as Beat Saber or Job Simulator accessible to people with physical disabilities. The VR fitness app FitXR also focuses on inclusion, offering workouts for people with mobility impairments, for example.
Meta supports research for more inclusion in the metaverse
Other organizations involved in the project include Cambridge University and tech giant Meta. According to Dr. Garaj, Meta played a decisive role in the realization of the project.
Meta’s support helped justify the project at the proposal stage, he said. It is unclear what the group’s involvement was in concrete terms. However, it is likely to be mainly advisory and offering technical support, as the project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to the tune of just under $1.1 million.
“We see Social VR as a significant step towards the ‘full-blown’ metaverse and Meta is leading the efforts to establish this new global network,” Garaj said.