18 Aug 2023
New Oxford research highlights need for inclusivity in the Metaverse for disabled users and content creators
The rapid development of the Metaverse raises concerns over inclusivity and bias, including the participation of physically disabled individuals in its creation.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London have unveiled a pioneering study, led by the Oxford e-Research Centre, which analyses emerging and ever-evolving Metaverse technologies and their implications for physically disabled artists and sets out a framework for the meaningful participation of disabled creatives.
The research was led by Dr. Petar Radanliev and Professor David De Roure of the Oxford e-Research Centre, alongside Dr. Peter Novitzky from University College London, and Dr. Ivo Sluganovic from the University of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science. Together, they've charted a groundbreaking framework that accentuates inclusivity in the Metaverse, harnessing emerging technologies like Virtual and Augmented Reality, coupled with the Internet of Things, to incorporate the requirements of disabled creatives.
Dr Radanliev explains, "In the Metaverse's vast expanse, true inclusivity isn't merely granting access; it's about recognising and valuing the unique experiences of those with disabilities, ensuring that this digital frontier is as diverse and accommodating as the world we live in."
The study finds that despite the monumental technological strides achieved, the Metaverse's inclusivity remains an area in need of attention. Research spanning 2016-2023 brought to light crucial disparities in current inclusivity measures within the decentralised Metaverse, such as a lack of financial incentives for interoperability which hinders the widespread adoption of accessibility solutions across various Metaverse platforms.
"Nothing about the Metaverse for the disabled should be decided without the disabled. It's their realm too, and their voices, experiences, and abilities should be at the heart of its evolution."
Disability Arts Online
In order to ensure the Metaverse reflects and caters to the diverse population that are its potential users, the report emphasises the importance of focusing on the unique needs and experiences of disabled users and artists.
Some of the key recommendations highlighted by the study are:
- User-Led Design: Prioritise a user-first approach in Metaverse development. Recognise the diverse needs of disabled users, drawing from interaction design principles to ensure a tailored and inclusive experience.
- Collaborative Partnerships: Collaborate with local arts groups and organisations like Dyspla to ensure art in the Metaverse truly reflects diverse artistic voices, providing platforms for artists to showcase and share their work.
- Clear Funding Commitments: Urge major stakeholders to specify their financial commitments to accessibility.
- Engage the Community: Increase involvement of disabled artists in the Metaverse's development and review processes to ensure projects genuinely cater to user needs.
- Diversify Funding Sources: Advocate for varied funding avenues, including governmental bodies and NGOs. This promotes sustained, inclusive growth and reduces reliance on single stakeholders.
The ramifications of the study, entitled 'Accessibility and Inclusiveness of New Information and Communication Technologies for Disabled Users and Content Creators in the Metaverse', are far-reaching. By supporting the active engagement of physically disabled individuals in designing Metaverse platforms and underlining the urgency of a digitally inclusive landscape, the research offers invaluable insights for policymakers, technologists, and wider society.
The Oxford e-Research Centre, renowned for leading interdisciplinary data science research, was instrumental in guiding this study. Part of the University of Oxford's Department of Engineering Science, the Centre is an interdisciplinary hub of 50 dedicated staff members - from academics, students, and data scientists to postdoctoral researchers and research software professionals. The team's collective expertise, spanning an extensive array of data science domains and technologies, was pivotal in shaping the contours of the investigation.
Crucially, the initiative was underpinned by the PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity. As the world's most expansive socio-technical research centre with a lens on the IoT's future, PETRAS's commitment to fostering and implementing technological advances in a safe and secure manner is unwavering. Their endorsement underscores the gravity and timeliness of this research, which aspires to sculpt a more inclusive and just Metaverse. For more details on the research or for collaboration inquiries, interested parties can reach out to Dr. Petar Radanliev, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This article is a summary of the PETRAS collaborative research initiative by the University of Oxford and University College London.