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Immersive and inclusive: Brunel, Open Inclusion and Channel 4 aim to open up VR

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The virtual world could soon be more a more inclusive place thanks to 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, accessibility consultants Open Inclusion and Channel 4 – hopes to provide a deeper understanding of the barriers people with impairments and advanced age face when they engage with emergent technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

“Inclusive design is about understanding the variety of human condition – personal needs, preferences, skills, context and adaptation,” said Dr Vanja Garaj, Head of Design at Brunel.

“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.” 

Using content supplied by Channel 4, such as the recently released Extreme Everest with Ant Middleton, 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.   

“What’s interesting about this project is that it’s the first to test how these population groups relate to immersive technologies – we found just one previous project, which was limited to viewing 360-degree videos, without interaction.

“We assume the key barriers will be disorientation, nausea, interface control issues and limited perception of visual and audible inputs,” said Dr Garaj.

Christine Hemphill, Managing Director of Open Inclusion, said: “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.”

The project is funded under the Audience of the Future: Design Foundations programme by Innovate UK. The collaboration between Brunel, Open Inclusion and Channel 4 was initiated through the Brunel Co-Innovate Journeys project, funded by ERDF.  

Reported by:

Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268965
tim.pilgrim@brunel.ac.uk