Interview: How people with disabilities explore the benefits of virtual reality

SpecialEffect - a UK-based charity - uses SMI Eye Tracking HMDs to help people with disabilities enjoy video games and explore the benefits of VR.
Interview: How people with disabilities explore the benefits of virtual reality
Dr Mick Donegan, founder of SpecialEffect

What does your charity do?

Playing video games is a pastime many of us have enjoyed in our lifetime without a second thought. However, what happens when you have a disability and using your hands to hold that mouse or controller is too difficult?

SpecialEffect aims to level the playing field for these people and, given the emerging popularity of virtual reality headsets, will also help them to explore these devices.

Why do you use eye tracking?

Eye tracking allows communication and increased independence for those that can’t move any other part of their body. We’ve used eye tracking for a wide range of things – from helping people to use the internet, to completing a doctoral thesis and of course, playing video games.

What are the benefits of virtual reality headsets?

For someone confined to a wheelchair or bedrest, the call to explore the world and experience new thrills can seem like an impossible dream. That’s where virtual reality comes in – it offers a chance to experience freedom and can enable even those people who are ‘locked-in’ to continue exploring the places  they can no longer physically travel.

What are the benefits of eye tracking in virtual reality?

Whilst the current state of virtual reality tends to revolve around physical movement, our hope is that eye tracking – and gaze control – will give those with disabilities a more interactive and rewarding immersive experience. Eye tracking offers a more intuitive and natural way for everyone (not just those with disabilities) to interact with a game or experience.

What is your verdict of SMI’s Eye Tracking HMD?

The use of eye tracking in virtual reality presents an extremely promising and exciting future for everyone, and has the potential to be a truly inclusive platform that could set a standard for subsequent technology advancements.

Our trial with SMI’s Eye Tracking HMD confirmed to us the benefits of eye tracking in virtual reality.  Together, they have the potential to transform the virtual reality experience for those with disabilities.

Interview: How people with disabilities explore the benefits of virtual reality
Dr Mick Donegan, founder of SpecialEffect
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