Could Video Games be the Next Frontier for People with Disabilities?

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Video Games DisabilitiesBack when you were playing Pac-Man, Pong, or Donkey Kong, could you have ever imagined that there would be a day when that blinking game in front of you could give those with limited mobility the chance to run, jump, dive, and fly faster than the speed of light?

This dream is coming to fruition thanks to enhanced graphics and virtual reality gaming devices. This new frontier, also called immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, offers benefits far beyond the mere entertainment of a video game. There are educational, emotional, and career-oriented virtual reality environments where people with disabilities can access a vast range of experiences that may not be possible in a physical setting.

The technological advancements, increasing investment, and more mainstream use has another benefit: lower price points. What was once only for those in a high-tech laboratory or luxury home, can now be owned for as little as the cost of a large pizza. With a free app and a simple cardboard viewer starting at $7, virtual reality is becoming more and more accessible. What this means for people with disabilities is that they can enjoy “regular life” in a way not possible before virtual reality came into play.

Taking virtual reality technology to another level, students at John Hopkins University developed a game attachment for upper-body amputees. It allows them to use their legs to perform 20 different full-body movements within a video game, providing an amazing augmented reality experience.

Other options in virtual reality for the disabled allow them to experience what it is like to surf standing up and engage in action sports that they may not physically be able to do in the real world. Facebook’s Oculus Rift is also getting widespread attention as a mainstream virtual reality device, allowing anyone to “walk” around other worlds in an immersive experience.

In addition to providing sensory stimulation and the physical experience, virtual reality can have profound benefits emotionally as well. It has been used for years in the treatment for anxiety, phobias, and feelings of stress. One recent study even found virtual reality to be as effective as other therapies to treat veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to CNBC, more than $5.2 billion has been invested into virtual reality over the past year alone. No doubt, this is just the beginning. Best of all, this booming technology means that people with disabilities will be able to experience almost anything in a way that feels real, both physically and emotionally.

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