Joined Instructure’s accessibility webinar this afternoon to learn more about what they are doing on the accessibility of Canvas. With regards to the product itself, quality assurance developers assess the accessibility of new features throughout development, then they work with an external agency, WebAIM, to complete their VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) to comply with US legislation.
With regards to content, they provide an accessibility checker tool which I learned today wasn’t their own thing, but UDOIT, an open source tool developed by the University of Central Florida. This can check web content, but not files like PowerPoint and Word documents like Blackboard Ally can. Instructure have also recently added Microsoft’s Immersive Reader as a beta feature, which will hopefully become a permanent addition.
Attended a live demonstration of a fully interactive system from Immersive Interactive which our Faculty of Applied Sciences could be interested in purchasing. The system is designed to simulate as closely as possible any given scenario in a safe place. One of the examples they demonstrated was for paramedic training and included scenes set at accidents, inside an ambulance and then in a hospital. Our Faculty is interested in using it to simulate a pharmacy and other health related scenarios.
It works by using a combination of projectors, touch screens, Kinect sensor bars for motion control and voice recognition, surround sound speakers and a smoke / smell machine. It all runs off a fairly standard PC and a tablet for control. Anything can be projected onto the screens but 3600 video footage generates the best results and the system includes a 3600 camera made up of 6 GoPros for recording and creating your own scenarios. The pop-up demonstration here was limited to three three metre screens but when permanently installed in a room it can project onto all four walls and the floor, and can even be set up as rear-projection for a better effect, though this of course requires a lot of additional space.
I was fairly impressed by it, I can see a lot of potential in systems like this and, of course, the ultimate goal is a proper holodeck! It has the advantage over virtual reality systems like the Oculus Rift in that multiple people can be present in the room and it isn’t blocking out external reality completely (though that could be seen as a plus). In the short to medium term I think both approaches have their strengths and are worthy of development. Of course, none of the hardware used here is special and one of my colleagues thinks we could put something like this together ourselves, but getting it all to work together smoothly is the difficult bit and that is what Immersive Interactive provides – service and software. But it’s not cheap, and they are only just expanding into FE and HE now. Only six FE/HE institutions have purchased the system to date, with the oldest being installed around four months ago. So, no research yet into the impact and effectiveness which is what is really needed before making such a big commitment.