The initial project - called Accessibility In Virtual Worlds - is what the company describes as "a proof of concept" at this stage but will be passed on to IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Centre in Texas for further development. The Irish team decided to use the Active Worlds online environment rather than the more popular Second Life for flexibility reasons. Active Worlds is a collection of user-made virtual worlds that people can visit via a web browser plug-in.
To offer a better insight on how this all works; "When the user comes into the world, the items are described as well as their positions," explained Colm O'Brien, one of the team of four researchers who worked on the project. "There is also sound attached - for example, if there's a tree nearby you will hear a rustling of leaves," said Mr O'Brien. The work also developed tools which uses text to speech software that reads out any chat from fellow avatars in the virtual world that appears in a text box. Characters in the virtual world can have a "sonar" attached to them so that the user gets audible cues to alert them to when they are approaching, from which direction and how near they are.