Facebook and Oculus have detailed how they are looking to focus on accessibility for VR following the announcement of Facebook rebranding as Meta.
On Thursday, Facebook officially announced that it is rebranding to Meta to better highlight its focuses as it shifts away from being known only as a social media company. Mark Zuckerburg, the CEO wants to push for a metaverse company and has shown a focus on virtual reality becoming a new way for people to connect. Yesterday, Facebook Reality Labs released a new video explaining how Oculus, a virtual reality company that is owned by Facebook, would be focusing on accessibility.
Presented by Mari Kyle, game producer at Oculus Studios team at Facebook Reality Labs, the video opens with, “At Oculus, it’s everyone’s responsibility to think about accessibility, diversity, and inclusion within our platform.” The video runs through the year in review with a mention of accessibility VRCs (Virtual Reality Checks) that are in place for the Oculus VR headsets.
Kyle mentions that the company realizes that many developers are independent or hobbyists and so the company has created platform-level accessibility solutions and features that can be “easily integrated into apps”. Some examples of these that are available were highlighted, such as an accessibility tab being added that contains options to change text size and other features. Color correction is a system-level display setting that’s available for users, and Raise View is another feature that allows users to experience a standing view, even when seated.
It’s revealed that a “system-level captioning solution” is in the works, which appears to provide auto-generated captions for any VR destination the user visits. While still in testing, the company looks to be figuring out how to display captions in social spaces and “build out our machine-learning algorithms.”
“We recognize that many of our developers are working with small teams and budgets” Kyle states in the video, moving on to say that providing platform-level solutions make it easier for them to make their apps accessible and allow them to “create more space to focus on great new content.” It’s also said that it should reduce additional accessibility testing due to the solutions already having been tested.
There are 4 key takeaways for developers looking to build applications and games for the Oculus, with Kyle saying that developers need to do the following.
- Diversify your team from developers to playtesters
- Build accessibility testing into development
- Give players options and control
- Don’t design for the “Average User”
It seems as if Reality Labs and Oculus are looking to create more accessible applications and seems like the focus is on social online experiences which seems in line with Zuckerburg’s Metaverse plans. Although, there have been concerns raised. For example, when the accessibility VRCs were announced some of the guidelines for captions were criticized for not being as informational as they could be.
And following last night’s keynote, Ian Hamilton, an accessibility specialist has highlighted some concerns. Noting that auto-captions shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for actual subtitles and that the company shouldn’t be telling developers that using these solutions saves them time and money.
Facebook, or Meta, looks to be heavily shifting into virtual reality, and we will be sure to try and keep our attention on anything that comes forward regarding gaming and tech.