Making VR Accessible for Everyone
A few small tweaks and changes could improve the experience of using VR for many people.
Most human beings are right-handed. This means, that by and large, most things are designed for use by right-handed people. Can openers, scissors, even pens are all biased towards the right handed community. Videogames are no different, as any leftie who has tried to play Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword or Sonic and the Black Knight will tell you. There are other, similar biases at work too, present in the virtual reality (VR) world. Lets look at some of them.
The popularity of gesture controls is growing slowly, but for obvious reasons, the vast majority of people testing the applications and videogames that use these functions are right-handed, and for the most part the player avatars default to being right-handed as well. This can cause some serious issues for left-handed players when they are using the ‘wrong’ hand to control an action, such as swing a sword or fire a gun, aim could be badly off or simply not register. Some titles have a ‘lefty flip’ option, but many do not.
Several smaller, more petite people have reported problems with the HTC Vive headset, complaining of its front-heavy weight, and the lack of suitable adjustment on the strap, so it would not fit correctly. Conversely, people with large hands trying to use the Oculus Touch controllers have likewise experienced problems, such as hand cramps.
This problem extends to accessories such as Data Gloves, which are often designed to fit generic ‘common’ sizes are are not designed to accommodate people with very large, or very small hands. It isn’t really practical to get a custom glove made, though one solution is present in the form of the Go Touch VR ‘gloveless’ data hand sensors.
Much has been written about the ‘simulation sickness’ problem with VR. While that is indeed an issue, there are other, slightly more subtle issues that may wish to be looked at. Many VR titles are designed to be standing, or room-scale, particularly for the HTC Vive, which presents a problem for those with limited mobility, or people who have problems standing for long periods? Any company should be looking to expand the market as far as possible, so it seems a great shame to leave out a potential market. One potential solution is Walkin VR, a middleware application that can map movement to a controller button to make things easier for players with disabilities. This sort of solution ought to be given more attention and integration.
When watching something on a TV, tablet, PC monitor or smartphone, there are multiple options to control the brightness and contrast, and even special applications to adjust the colour to reduce eye fatigue. While there are some workarounds for some high-end VR platforms, for the most part these options are unavailable for VR displays. Research has shown that certain types of light can prevent restful sleep and cause other problems such as headaches if the light is too bright, at the wrong frequency, or using too much ‘blue’ light. While it could be argued that altering the lighting messes with the immersion and artistic vision of a videogame, those same tools have existed for PC for years with little complaint.
In conclusion, a few small tweaks and additions could go a long way towards making VR a more comfortable place for everyone.