Despite the metaverse being described by the media as a place, the truth is that it is actually a way of using technology. In fact the term describes the ability to move through endlessly connected virtual worlds to do all the things we currently do differently—meet through Zoom, buy things, scroll Instagram. Well, let’s play the game. The metaverse would not be possible all at once; Rather, digital platforms that already seem immersive will become even more so. Those with access to technologies like augmented reality glasses (yes, those are making a comeback) and virtual reality (VR) headsets will be able to make the most of these experiences. This means that the limits of those technologies will extend further into the metaverse as well.
Take for example a VR headset. Despite decades of development, they are still quite expensive to own and heavy to wear, and the materials they present are mostly geared towards the viewing, listening audience. The more immersive VR experiences become, the more parts of the body are involved—the hands, even the feet and hands—to hold the controllers to feed information into the virtual game or activity. But what if you can’t see, hear, speak or move easily? What if you have sensory processing disorder, or severe anxiety? What if you are one of the large percentage of people (mostly women) who say they experience motion sickness in virtual reality? What if you don’t have a high-speed internet connection?
Well, in many cases this means that the technology simply isn’t for you.
It has been a source of frustration among gamers with disabilities for years, and as the possibilities of the Metaverse expand, so will the tech industry’s insurmountable hardware and software problems. If most of life in the future happens through the metaverse – not only through sports and entertainment but also through work, social gatherings and dates – it would leave a vast and growing segment of the population untouched. The old saying of computer programmers still holds: garbage in, garbage out. Inaccessible product lacks empathy for users of all abilities.