Virtual reality and assistive technology

Virtual reality, which used to only exist in science fiction movies, is now a technology that can be found in the entertainment industry, healthcare industry, and even the world of assistive technology.

For example, the use of Google Cardboard, an affordable virtual reality headset, in the assistive technology field is being widely explored. Just recently, it was used to bring a veteran’s day parade experience to veterans who were disabled and therefore unable to be physically present at the parade. Cornell Murphy, a veteran who served in the Korean War, said of the experience “That felt really, really rewarding. It felt like you were really, really there, making you feel like you want to wave back.”  Google Cardboard has also been used to bring the thrill of different activities to those who have disabilities that prevent them from participating. Danny Kurtzmann, a young man who has muscular dystrophy, had previously only surfed by lying down on the board. When he put on the headset and experienced surfing standing up, he was amazed. “It gave me that awesome feeling – that butterfly happiness feeling. It allowed me to experience something I thought I never could experience.”

In addition to allowing those who have disabilities to have new experiences they otherwise couldn’t have, virtual reality devices like the Google Cardboard and the Oculus Rift also allows those without disabilities to experience what a person with a disability might have to go through. Eelke Folmer, a professor at the University of Nevada, developed an app that simulated different visual impairments like macular degeneration, glaucoma, and color blindness.

The potential for virtual reality to be used in assistive technology is extremely exciting, and will hopefully make a significant impact in many people’s lives.

One Response to “Virtual reality and assistive technology”

  1. Jeff Dusek says:

    These are great applications for virtual reality technology- especially the use of the devices both as assistive technology, and to enhance awareness amongst the general population. I think the devices you mention could be really powerful to help people “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” and just maybe, help build some empathy.

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