Microsoft Aims to Improve VR for Visually Impaired

Accessing virtual reality is no longer a problem for visually impaired with Microsoft’s new tool kit, SeeingVR. It focuses on making VR more accessible to users with vision that is either weak or cannot be corrected through prescription glasses.

SeeingVR was created with the collaboration between Microsoft researchers, Cornell University and Cornell Tech. It incorporates a total of 14 tools addressing different vision issues and can be integrated in virtual reality projects developed in Unity. These tools are purely visual in nature and include configurable text (size, boldness and color), object highlight tool, magnification window, depth measurement tool, an overlay allowing you to view a minuscule outline of your peripheral vision, bifocal magnification, guideline tool, brightness and contrast adjustments, and a whole-scene recoloring tool.

You can pick, adjust, and pair different tools on the basis of your preferences. The best thing about SeeingVR is that nine of its tools can be used to modify an existing virtual reality app post hoc through a plugin that doesn’t require any help from developers. Rest of the tools need developers to make simple inputs with Unity toolkit created by Microsoft, allowing integration of all 14 of the tools that support weak vision.

SeeingVR is still in its initiation phase and the preliminary evaluation by Microsoft researchers show that users with weak vision had a better virtual reality experience with these tools and were able to accomplish tasks with more speed and accuracy. Microsoft team will present their findings officially at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems conference in May. It’s a great initiative that will open up the doors to virtual world for those who previously couldn’t enjoy the full experience of VR.