Virtual Reality Techniques in Browsers

It is not accurate to state that the uses of virtual reality techniques are non-existent in the user interface of Internet browsers. There are moves in the standardisation of such techniques in areas such as X3D “an XML-based language for representing 3-D objects and scenes” Chapman & Chapman (2009, p710) where browsers, with the advent of XML compatibility, although they may still require plug-in or helper applications, will allow virtual reality use in the browser. Despite these advancements, virtual reality techniques in the browser are rare and specialist and are used for sites such as visualisation and virtual communities, which are not in popular use.

Accessibility is a problem in existing non-browser based virtual reality system, such as Second Life (SL), as Abrahams (2006) found that those users needing accessibility options (e.g. blind people) “will find it impossible to navigate around or interact with the objects and avatars in SL” and this is still true today as the rendering process of 3D graphical environments needs to be as performance friendly as possible and the extra tagging required, if indeed it were possible to tag, to adhere to accessibility standards would add to the download payload of every frame. Having been a member of SL a few years ago but found it frustrating slow, to the point that I did not return, to use I could imagine that its transposition to being web based and tagged would cause signification performance issues.

This bring us neatly onto the main points of virtual reality usability and accessibility even the Web 3D Consortium (2011) are today still looking at how “X3D models can be made accessible to users with accessibility challenges” not because it is not possible but rather that browsers, with their limited memory are not designed for heavy applications, which virtual reality techniques ultimately are and to push these requirements further with extra tagging is a challenge.

References

Abrahams, P (2006) Second Life Class Action [Online]. Available at http://www.it-analysis.com/blogs/Abrahams_Accessibility/2006/11/second_life_class_action.html (Accessed 20 Mar 2011).

Chapman. C. & Chapman. J. (2009) Digital Multimedia (3rd Edition). Wiley.

Web 3D Consortium (2011) X3D and E-Learning [Online]. Available at http://www.web3d.org/x3d/wiki/index.php/X3D_and_E-Learning (Accessed 20 March 2011).