VR Diversity Initiative Uses VR To Create Accessible Backpacks For People With Scoliosis

Young tech enthusiasts come together to create backpacks that could be used by people with disabilities using VR technology.

During one of the workshops at the VR Diversity Initiative, a summit dedicated to empowering under-represented groups in developing XR skills, participants used VR to create accessible backpacks for individuals suffering from various physical disabilities.

“VR is the closest you are going to be able to get out of your own body, completely in a creative space, to be able to create whatever it is that you want,” said VR artist Continuum while kicking-off the workshop. “And that is going to be what we do today and hopefully this is going to be the way we are going to be able to create some amazing things by the end of the day.”

The objective was to create three accessible backpacks — one for a wheelchair user and two for people with scoliosis, a medical disorder involving the abnormal curvature of the spine. For the people suffering from this condition, and for those confined to a wheelchair, conventional backpacks can often be uncomfortable to wear and in some cases, completely unusable. 

To inform their designs and make them more accessible the teams spoke to occupational therapist Emma Shepherd, after which they had less than six hours to use VR technology to design their bags.

“This kind of technology could really change the lives of people, particularly people with disabilities and to enable them in everyday life,” Shepherd said. “This is just the start I think of how it’s going to be applied.”

Divided into three groups, each team was led by one of the three subjects who would eventually be using the backpack and custom designed the apparel to meet their specific needs.

“I have quite severe scoliosis on my spine and backpacks rest on the bottom of my back which is not great because that is the weakest part of my back,” Jo, an attendee of the VR Diversity Initiative and a leader of one of the teams in the competition. “So we decided to go above the weakest part and do a tiny backpack and lean it on the left shoulder because that is where the weight is better for me.”

To create the backpacks for the two participants with scoliosis, the duo had their backs scanned to visually show the curves in their spines. Each team could then upload the scans and design the backpack model in VR using Gravity Sketch, a design tool used to create and share VR models, and 3D print the basic structures that would rest gently on their backs. They then designed each of the backpacks around these mounts, allowing the wearers to carry heavier items with less discomfort. For the participant in the wheelchair, he and his group created a trolley that could easily attach to his chair and move naturally in sync with him.

In a short period of time, and with just a budding knowledge of VR, these groups of young people were able to make a genuine impact on the lives of three individuals — an exciting glimpse of how VR technology can make the world more accessible for those with disabilities. Through VR training, designs, and the creation of new products, VR has the capability of opening new doors for the disabled community.

Image Credit: VRFocus

About the Scout

Allison Hollender

Allison is a Bay Area journalist reporting for VRScout. Follow her attempts at jokes @alleyrenee16.

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