Microsoft researchers have created a tool that could make VR more accessible to users with impaired vision.

Called SeeingVR, the tool kit is designed to address a problem that affects users with low vision, or vision that can’t be corrected by prescription glasses.

As reported by Engadget, Microsoft researchers teamed up with Cornell Tech and Cornell University to create SeeingVR, a kit intended for Unity developers to integrate into their VR projects. SeeingVR includes 14 different tools that address a variety of vision issues.

The team’s purely visual tools include a magnification window, bifocal magnification, brightness and contrast enhancements, edge enhancement, an overlay that lets you see a miniature outline of you peripheral vision, configurable text (color, boldness, and size), depth measurement tool, a ‘guideline’ tool for better user orientation, a whole-scene recoloring tool, and an object highlight tool—similar to edge enhancement, but for specific objects in the scene.

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The team also included audio-based enhancements including text-to-speech, audible object descriptions, and AI and human-assisted object descriptions leveraged from existent mobile apps such as VizWiz and Seeing AI.

“A user can select, adjust, and combine different tools based on their preferences, the team’s research paper states. “Nine of our tools modify an existing VR application post hoc via a plugin without developer effort. The rest require simple inputs from developers using a Unity toolkit we created that allows integrating all 14 of our low vision support tools during development.”

The researchers’ evaluation included 11 participants with low vision; the team concludes that their various methods show that SeeingVR “enabled users to better enjoy VR and complete tasks more quickly and accurately.”

The team will be presenting their findings in May at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 4,000 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • jj

    Wouldn’t the shaders in their unity toolkit override or not use your own custom shaders for these effects? So you’d have to use their materials or unity standard shaders unless they know how to stack shaders(not sure if thats possible, and i dont mean passed within a shader) , or work with custom shaders somehow.
    The majority of devs branch away from standard shaders and build them out so maybe this is an issue, or maybe its not and im overlooking something dead obvious. That or theyre going about it a different way than shaders, but those align with a lot of things you’d do in a shader.

  • Great plugin! Anyway, I still wonder how this can be implemented in the game… I mean, how this work together with an exisiting pointing system already present in the game (that for instance is used to select objects)?

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