Making Virtual Reality More Accessible

By: Verbit Editorial
a person wearing a VR device in front of a TV

Virtual reality, or VR, is one of the most rapidly-growing fields of gaming and entertainment technology. VR allows a user to explore a 360° computer-generated environment that is hyper-realistic and fully immersive. It’s possible to incorporate VR into theme park rides, large-scale attractions and as well as at home thanks to recent advances in technology.

Estimates indicate there are nearly 66 million VR users in the United States, and this number will likely continue to grow in the coming years. While VR offers unique experiences for gamers and those who enjoy technology-driven forms of entertainment, it may not be sufficiently accessible for all users. Incorporating tried and true assistive technologies like closed captions into a game’s UX design can help VR developers offer more engaging, accessible experiences for all.

Can people who are Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) play VR?

At first blush, it may seem like VR experiences are primarily visually driven. However, to make these experiences fully immersive, VR developers use both visual and auditory cues that create a realistic environment.

VR experiences may include dialogue and sound effects, and other sound cues that are important story-telling components. To provide equitable experiences to VR users who are Deaf or hard of hearing, developers should take advantage of assistive technologies like closed captioning.

How do captions work in VR?

Closed captions represent the spoken text and other audio elements of a video or video game. In a more traditional format, these closed captions would appear on-screen in a fixed location. Due to its 360° nature, VR poses some UX design challenges when it comes to the implementation of captions.

There are two primary options when it comes to the placement of VR closed captions: head-locked or fixed. Head-locked captions will follow a user’s head movements to remain within their field of vision. Fixed captions, on the other hand, will remain locked in space wherever the designer chooses to place them.

Each of these styles of captioning in VR can contribute to the overall user experience. Head-locked captions are a great option for expressing any information that is time-sensitive or critical to the user’s immediate understanding of a plot point. Fixed captions, on the other hand, can be a great way of directing a user’s attention to a specific location.

Does Oculus have closed captions?

Oculus is an at-home VR headset developed by MetaQuest, an offshoot of Facebook. Oculus headsets have made VR experiences more readily available to the general public. As a result, the Oculus brand has emerged as a major thought leader in the VR space.

Recently, MetaQuest released a set of technical recommendations they titled “Virtual Reality Checks” that address common VR accessibility issues. These guidelines encourage developers to incorporate closed captioning in VR experiences and also provide recommendations for the best font for captioning, best placement of VR captions and more.

Oculus also laid an excellent framework for VR developers looking to produce more accessible virtual reality experiences. The platform allows for the inclusion of closed captions and other visual symbols and cues that improve the experiences of users who are Deaf and hard of hearing and contribute to increased overall VR accessibility.

How to get closed captions for VR

Perhaps the easiest, most cost-effective means of developing closed captions for a VR experience is to partner with a professional closed captioning provider like Verbit. Verbit is one of the world’s leading providers of assistive technologies like captioning, transcription, translation and audio description.

Verbit’s platform is easy to use and capable of delivering highly accurate final captioning files. Thanks to their efficacy, Verbit’s captions are a great way for VR developers to support accessibility standards and guidelines while delivering more engaging experiences to all users.

Here are the steps to take to start captioning:

  1. Users upload an audio or video file to Verbit’s platform.
  2. Verbit automatically transcribes the file using an advanced form of artificial intelligence.
  3. Verbit’s professional human transcribers review and edit the initial transcript.
  4. Verbit converts the final transcript to closed captions and delivers it to the user in a file format that includes accurate time codes for syncing.
  5. The user can download their caption file in the format of their choosing for incorporation into their final game design.

Verbit: Making every reality more accessible

Virtual reality is here to stay, and the odds are that we will only see the technology grow and expand in the coming years. VR has ushered in a whole new era of immersive entertainment experiences for individuals from all walks of life. As VR becomes more and more commonplace, it’s time for developers across every genre to give ample thought to the accessibility of their virtual reality content.

Verbit is proud to provide a wide range of assistive technologies that can help content creators, business leaders, game developers and more offer more inclusive, engaging experiences for their diverse audiences. Verbit is a one-stop shop for everything from captioning music to live-captioning virtual meetings and can handle even large-scale projects with ease. Reach out today to learn more about partnering with Verbit to make every reality more accessible.