The future of sound and video is 360 Immersive

Vithya Vijayakumare and David Vosnacos outline the benefits of immersive technology

It’s a new technology which has so much potential – 360 video and audio. It adds an extra dimension and can captivate an audience. For those with a disability it opens-up opportunities, making the impossible possible.

VisAbility was invited to demonstrate its potential at the National Disability Scheme (NDS) WA State Conference with a presentation entitled ‘Go 360: Exploring a world of immersive, accessible technologies.’

VisAbility’s Accessible Information Team, David Vosnacos and Vithya Vijayakumare are passionate about using video and audio in the field of accessibility.

Research proves viewers are more engaged with this type of footage and will watch it for up to 44% longer.

What is 360 video and audio?

360 photography has been around for a few years, but 360 video and audio takes that concept one step further.

It’s a fully immersive experience enabling you to take in all the visuals around you to create a deeply moving experience.

Vithya Vijayakumare, Digital Production Coordinator explains its appeal.

Most of us listen to music or sound in stereo, which is sound coming from one dimension. 360 or spatial audio is a full sphere surround-sound technique to mimic the way we hear in real life.

Vithya Vijayakumare
Digital Production Coordinator

“For example, with 360 video and audio you can experience the views and sounds of a busy Indonesian market. Look at the blue skies above you and the colourful items on display around you. You might hear a stall holder shouting from one direction and motorbikes revving in the background in another,” adds Vithya.

Image shows a busy Indonesian market  with people buying fruit and vegetables
360 audio and video can make you feel as though you are in that environment, such as a busy Balinese market

How can it benefit people with disabilities?

While 360 audio and video may have started out as a form of entertainment, now we’re seeing its greater potential. David Vosnacos, Access Consultant says 360 videos are both educational and inspiring.

“It is putting that person in the scene, allowing them to explore that setting, placing them at the centre of events.”

“For individuals with disabilities it can be used to help people with life skills in so many ways. It gives them the opportunity to experience things they couldn’t normally do because of their impairment.”

For wheelchair users, they’ll know in advance whether somewhere can accommodate a wheelchair and is accessible. For people who have autism or Asperger’s, it’s a way of introducing them to new surroundings so they’re more prepared.

As Vithya explains, it’s effectively giving people with disabilities the opportunity to try out real life experiences.

“It’s really amazing when you think of what we’re achieving. This medium can also raise people’s awareness of vision impairment and what is it like to completely rely on your hearing to navigate your surroundings.”

“We can take snapshots from all over the world and take them to people to experience in their own homes. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this technology and further exciting advancements in this area.”

How is it best utilised?

  • For people with physical disabilities, it offers someone the opportunity to try new experiences through virtual tours. These may be activities such as climbing a mountain, swimming in the ocean, roller-coaster ride, sky-diving, surfing and skateboarding. These new experiences can be inspiring and exhilarating.
  • The 360 medium helps people with vision impairment or disabilities to learn new routes. For example, without leaving their home an individual can experience dynamic visual and auditory cues to get to work.
  • It could play a role in supporting someone who’s had a stroke or sports injury. Scientists know that when someone imagines doing an activity, the brain becomes stimulated and immersive technology can help with motor skills and improving co-ordination.
  • It will help people who have physical disabilities to map out accessible routes in advance of a trip.
  • It can offer reassurance to people who have autism and Asperger’s. Knowing in advance where they’re heading will take away anxiety and reduce any feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • A photograph can capture an event, but 360 medium provides the possibility of reliving it as close to the experience as possible.
  • It provides the general public an opportunity to step into the shoes of people with vision impairment and blindness.

Experience it for yourself

If you’d like to explore 360 sound and video look and listen to this footage and the soundscapes below:

  • Watch this 360 video/sound produced by Vithya at an event to mark International White Cane Day.
  • Experience the sounds in a busy coffee shop.
  • Step into the shoes of a person who is blind using a white cane as they make their way home.
  • Hear the sounds of people cycling, chatting and cars passing as you approach the Bell Tower in Perth. The bell chimes get louder and louder so you know you’re approaching the tower.
  • Listen to the hustle and bustle of Bali with the honking and movements of bikes and traffic and the sound of people bartering.
  • In the forest, hear different sounds of birds chirping coming from all directions and the sound of a stream in the background and crunching of footsteps.
  • Catch the noise of the waves ebbing on the beach.

Both David and Vithya work in VisAbility’s Accessible Information Services. They offer support, consultancy and guidelines to ensure documents, websites, videos, products and services are accessible to all. If you’d like further information, contact us today.