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Immersive technologies for sensory, motor, cognitive and age-related impairments

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Co-Innovate has facilitated a new project aimed at making immersive technologies accessible for people with sensory, motor, cognitive and age-related impairments.

The new six-month, £60,000 Innovate UK project – run by Brunel University London through its ERDF-funded Co-Innovate programme, with Channel 4 and accessibility consultants Open Inclusion – hopes to provide a deeper understanding of the specific barriers people with a wide variety of impairments face when they engage with immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

Open Inclusion worked with Co-Innovate Innovation Director Ian Ferris to secure a Brunel Innovation Voucher to facilitate the research collaboration. This typifies the kind of pragmatic support, going beyond advice, offered by Co-Innovate Journeys, enabling London SMEs to overcome the many barriers to successful innovation. Partnering with Brunel academics and students, firms can get support planning innovation projects, gain access to specialist knowledge and resources, and, as in this case, receive expert help to identify, apply for and win innovation funding.

“Inclusive design is about understanding the variety of human condition – personal needs, preferences, skills, context and adaptation” 

“As immersive technologies are a relatively new technical approach, they are not yet fully understood, particularly in relation to specific media types, such as broadcast content, and specific audiences, such as those with perceptual access needs. What’s interesting about this project is that it’s the first to test how these population groups relate to such technologies – we found just one previous project, which was limited to viewing 360-degree videos, without interaction.” Dr Vanja Garaj, Head of Design at Brunel.

Using content supplied by Channel 4, researchers will work alongside people with impaired eye-sight, hearing and motor skills, and people with learning difficulties, to gain a better understanding of which design choices can positively or negatively affect accessibility. The project will also investigate independent VR gaming content.   

“As providers of the user insight for this project we are excited to see how immersive content could be designed inclusively to improve experiences for the significant audience segments of users with particular needs. With the appropriate user research supporting the design considerations, immersive technologies could enable people to better appreciate the content provided by broadcasters.” Christine Hemphill, Managing Director of Open Inclusion

The project is funded under the Audience of the Future: Design Foundations programme by Innovate UK. 

Reported by:

Jeremy Davies