IBM is currently developing a software tool
that will enable vision-impaired users to participate in online virtual worlds. The program uses screen-reading technology to render in-world action in text, which can then be passed on to blind users through recorded verbal descriptions.
In order for information to be collected for IBM's program, sighted users contribute verbal annotations for in-world objects and locations using a scripted tool equippable by their avatars. These annotations are collected and presented through IBM's application, which features a user interface similar to other vision-impaired assistance programs.
Virtual Worlds User Interface for the Blind is a client that runs through the web browser Firefox, which communicates with Second Life through an agent on a server at IBM. The interface is entirely navigable by keyboard, and is designed to leave no permanent software installed on a user's computer
The utility exists only as a prototype at the moment, providing blind users with navigation, communication, and perception functions within Linden Lab's popular online virtual world Second Life
. No other virtual world applications are currently supported, though IBM says that other worlds could be made accessible following possible interface portability enhancements.