Mundos virtuales para invidentes

Edificio virtual de IBM.
IBM busca establecer una presencia en los mundos virtuales promoviendo investigación.

 

Las personas ciegas pronto podrían tener acceso a los mundos virtuales de internet.

Algunos cálculos estiman que 80% de los usuarios activos de internet participarán en mundos virtuales en los próximos cuatro años.

La compañía IBM anunció que está interesada en que los invidentes no se sientan excluidos de un mundo que el resto de las personas acepta como algo común.

Un grupo de estudiantes irlandeses que hace trabajo de investigación bajo la iniciativa Extreme Blue de IBM diseñó un equivalente auditivo del mundo virtual usando efectos de sonido para crear una sensación de espacio.

La iniciativa de IBM reúne a grupos de estudiantes que trabajan durante 12 semanas para resolver problemas planteados por investigadores de la empresa.

El proyecto Acceso a Mundos Virtuales está una etapa que la compañía llama "prueba de concepto", y pasará al Centro de IBM en Texas para Habilidad Humana y Accesibilidad, donde se someterá a investigación más intensa.

El equipo irlandés decidió usar Active Worlds en vez de Second Life (que tiene 9,5 millones de asociados) porque el primero tiene mayor flexibilidad.

IBM cree que los mundos virtuales serán la próxima gran evolución de la internet
Active Worlds es una colección de mundos virtuales que, como muchos otros espacios similares, permite a los usuarios crear lo que hay en ellos, desde artefactos hasta edificios.

Señales sonoras

El equipo de investigadores aprovechó esta capacidad de manipular objetos en el mundo de la internet para hacerlo más accesible a las personas ciegas.

"Cuando el usuario llega a este mundo, escucha una descripción de las cosas y de su ubicación", explicó Colm O'Brien, uno de los cuatro investigadores que trabajaron en el proyecto.

"También hay sonido asociado. Por ejemplo, si hay un árbol cercano se oye cómo se mueven las hojas con el viento", agregó el estudiante.

El trabajo también creó herramientas que usan programas para convertir texto en habla y puede leer "en voz alta" las conversaciones de otros visitantes del mundo virtual.

Ciudadanos de un mundo virtual se reúnen en una plaza.
Se cree que 80% de los usuarios activos de internet usarán mundos virtuales en cuatro años.
Los personajes de este nuevo mundo tienen un sonar integrado que les permite emitir señales sonoras para alertar a los demás cuando se acercan, y permiten determinar de qué dirección vienen y qué tan cerca están.

Varios expertos en comunicación para invidentes -en Dublín y en Texas- asesoraron al equipo, y los estudiantes también se coordinaron con el Consejo Nacional de Irlanda para los Invidentes.

Además de probar que su idea es factible, el equipo hizo varias recomendaciones sobre accesibilidad que servirán a los diseñadores de mundos virtuales.

"IBM cree que los mundos virtuales serán la próxima gran evolución de la internet, y si es así no es justo que los invidentes se pierdan de lo que los demás tenemos", concluyó O'Brien.

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