As technology continues to advance, virtual reality is slowly but surely becoming more of a reality. For many readers, VR is the next step in gaming and achieving an immersive (virtual) experience. However, for Jamie Soar virtual reality is being used to allow him to experience what it is like to have "normal" vision in the real world. Mr. Soar lives with a genetic and progressive eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa as well as diplopia (or double vision) which means that he has severely limited night and peripheral vision. Jamie uses a white cane for mobility and needs to get close to things like computer monitors and signs in order to read them.
EIC Ryan Shrout using the HTC Vive to enter a VR world (Job Simulator) during a live stream.
Enter the HTC Vive and its dual lens solution that puts the displays (and the vitrual world) front and center. After donning the virtual reality headset at a PC World demo in the UK, Jamie was amazingly able to experience the virtual world in a similar way to how many people see the real world. His eyes were able to refocus on the close up displays, and thanks to the illusion of depth created by the dual lenses, he was able to look around the virtual world and see everything clearly and in brilliant color both near and far!
Via Blindness.org: An example of what vision is like with Retinitis Pigmentosa in an advanced stage. Peripheral and night vision are generally the first aspects to be lost as photoreceptors (rods) on outer edges of retina die.
In an interview with Upload VR, Mr. Soar had this to say to those with similar visual impairments:
“Try VR . Find a means to try it because I went so long without ever knowing that this extra dimension existed that you can see. Try out as many experiences as possible. It might not be for everyone but it might give people a lot more freedom or independence in what they do.”
This is a very cool story and I am excited for Mr. Soar. The aspiring music producer plans to continue experimenting with VR and I hope that as it continues to advance it can help him even more. My first thought jumped to Scott's desire to use VR for productivity work using an infinite desktop and how it could help Jamie compose and produce his music and get the same – or better – benefits most people get from having mutiple monitor setups without having to lean in to each monitor. I do not have nearly the vision loss that Mr. Soar has, but I can definitely empathize with him on many points. I think that it is awesome that he was able to test out VR and explore how he can use it to help him!
In my case I am more looking forward to AR (augmented reality) and future products built on things like Or Cam, Microsoft's Seeing AI project (which I thought I wrote about previously but can not find it via Google heh), and even things like and AiPoly (iOS) that use neural networks and can identify objects, people and their facial expressions, and even describe what is happening in natural language (we are not quite there yet but are definitely getting there).
Regardless of whether AR or VR, the advances in technology in just my 26 years have been amazing and the assitive technology available now is unbelievable. The future is exciting, indeed and I can't wait to see what comes next!