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Accessibility Innovation Art Share Out: Augmented Reality Accessibility

Augmented Reality (AR) Accessibility Techniques - Part I - November 20, 2017

About these techniques

In Augmented Reality applications, some device is used to experience enhancements to the real world. Much work in augmented reality is focused on visual effects, but the enhancements can also be haptic (something that is felt) or auditory.

These techniques are designed to help make augmented reality accessible to people with disabilities. They may also make augmented reality more engaging and realistic to a general audience.

Things Entertainment first shared these techniques, and a demo illustrating their use, at the VR for Good Summit in Washington DC, which was held on November 17, 2017 at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University. Exhibit table: iPad on a stand points down at the exhibit table and shows the table covered with a green field and two really silly 3D demo cows (each cow is just two white spheres combined together with black spots). Also shown: headphones, iPhone, business cards, branded flip book, and branded candies.

Key points about these techniques:

  • Not all of these techniques will be appropriate for every augmented reality game or application.
  • Many existing accessibility guidelines apply directly or with slight modification to augmented reality games/software. However, only techniques that are specific to augmented reality are listed here.
  • Every technique listed has been implemented in at least one test application by Things Entertainment on at least one reasonably priced current platform. View of a table through an augmented reality application. The table has been augmented with a green field and a demo cow. The green field is semi-transparent, so you can still see other items on the table through the field. The demo cow, though, is opaque.
  • Things Entertainment is currently developing, refining, testing and researching these techniques. They are a work in progress.
  • This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. See links in the footer.

1. Spatial or Positional Sound Effects

Provide sounds that sound as though they are coming from the location of augmented reality objects in the real world using stereo or surround sound. Sounds can be obvious, subtle and/or only present or only emphasized based on certain user settings.

Benefits:

  • General audience: Increases realism
  • People with mobility impairments: Reduces the amount of movement needed to locate objects
  • People who are blind or have low vision: Makes game play functional with less reliance on text descriptions

2. Distance Interactive Sound Effects / Distance Interactive Haptics

Play audio cues or haptic cues when a real world device or a real world controller is pointed precisely at an augmented reality object (target) in real world space. Types of precise pointing include:

  • Use of controller (like a laser pointer)
  • Tapping or panning on a touch screen as secondary precise positioning technique to narrow down location, if another method is provided for less precise positioning
  • Panning with a touch screen itself (moving the device)
  • Combinations of the above for more and less precise positioning
For greater realism, distance interactive sounds can also be spatial or positional and sound like they come from the target.

Benefits:

  • General audience & people with low vision: Provides user feedback and helps confirm game play targets when item is difficult to see or game play is very fast
  • People who are blind or have low vision: Makes game play functional by providing artificial line of sight

3. Real World Location Haptics / Real World Location Sound Effects

Play haptic cues or audio cues when a real world device or a real world controller intersects with an augmented reality object in real world space. (Note that in practical coding you might be testing for intersection with a point in space slightly outside of the actual location of the real world device or the real world controller.)

Benefits:

  • General audience: Increases realism
  • People who are blind: Provides an experience of augmented reality
  • People who are blind or have low vision: Makes game play functional with less reliance on text descriptions

4. Adjustable Location of Augmented Reality Objects for Easy Access

Allow users to move augmented reality objects that they need to interact with to be lower (e.g. for wheelchair access), to be higher (e.g. to avoid bending), and/or to be closer (reduce motion needed).

Benefits:

  • General audience: Ease of use for games with "grind". More pleasant/faster game-play for advanced players in sandbox games.
  • Smaller-space players: Makes it possible to move augmented reality objects that might be inaccessible because they appear in the same space as real world objects (such as a wall).
  • People with mobility impairments: Reduces the amount of movement and the types of movement needed to play
  • People who are blind or have low vision: Makes it possible to reduce the real world field of play, making location tasks simpler

5. Avoid Space Conflicts

Avoid precisely matching the position and size of augmented reality objects with the position and size of real world objects. For example, it is good practice for augmented reality horizontal planes (e.g. tables, desks) to overhang any real world horizonal planes that they may be imitating.

Benefits:

  • General audience, Smaller-space players & People with mobility impairments: Avoids inaccessible augmented reality objects after adjustments are made for guideline 4.
  • People with mobility impairments: Increases options in the type of movement, the angle of movement and the direction of movement needed to interact with augmented reality objects, because it is possible to move through augmented reality objects, while real world objects block motion

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Copyright © November 20, 2017 and May 2018 Things Entertainment™ | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.