Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Second Life gets virtual guide dog

Online virtual world otherwise known as ‘Second Life’ has introduced its own virtual guide dog in order to help the blind and partially sighted people use the site, reports Nomensa.

Second Life is a free online virtual world imagined and created by its residents; from the moment one enters Second Life, it is possible to discover a fast-growing digital world filled with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity.

A free Third Dimension (3D) virtual world imagined and created by way of downloading and installing the Second Life viewer. Once installed, users will be able to walk, “teleport” or even fly to thousands of exciting 3D locations. Usage of voice and text chat to communicate with other real people from around the world is viable.

The virtual dog is a German Shepherd called Max and will assist users with visual impairment to navigate the global community.

The chief executive of Guide Dogs, Bridget Warr, said the dog is keyboard controlled and simulates the experience of the ‘real world’, listening to sound and other messages to find its bearings, thus making users who are unable to see the screen to still be able to interact in the virtual world.

Max, according to Warr, is a complete problem solver designed to help people with sight loss navigate by giving the user constant feedback about the surrounding area hence, like a real guide dog, it helps users to avoid crashing into other people and objects.

Equally, she said, that the guide dog assists in navigating through the virtual world by reading messages and information using text to speech technology.

“This is a significant technological development, meaning blind and partially sighted people now have greater mobility and enhanced vision in the virtual world.
Max is one clever dog, opening up new opportunities for those with sight loss,” Warr said.

Emphasizing that Max is free to use, and was launched on Second Life on June 20, 2009, with a ‘Vision Quest’, which was designed to help participants experience what it’s like to work with a guide dog and to write stories about those experiences.

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