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Second Life gets a virtual guide dog for visually impaired users.

Release: 09CDY105

Date: 19 June 2009

Online virtual world Second Life now has its own virtual guide dog available to help blind and partially sighted people – meet German Shepherd Max.

Max revolutionises how people with a visual impairment navigate the global community and can even read signs, using text to speech technology.

The cyber pooch is keyboard controlled, rather than having to use a mouse. It simulates the experience of the ‘real world’, listening to sound and other helpful messages to find its bearings; so being unable to see the screen isn’t a problem.

Max makes it easy for visually impaired users to log on. And he’s a problem solver; designed to help people with sight loss navigate by finding any object (including other avatars (online character) and taking the blind person’s avatar to a virtual meeting.

He gives constant feedback about the immediate surrounding area, so like a real guide dog, he helps visually impaired users avoid crashing into other people and objects. He assists them in navigating the virtual world, reading messages and information with text to speech technology... even a real guide dog can’t do that!

Bridget Warr, chief executive of Guide Dogs said: “This is a significant technological development, meaning blind and partially sighted people now have greater mobility and enhanced vision in the virtual world. Max is one clever dog, opening up new opportunities for those with sight loss.”

Max is free to use, and will be launched on June 20th with a ‘Vision Quest’, designed to help participants experience what it’s like to work with a guide dog and to write stories about those experiences.

Second Life is an ideal place for blind and partially sighted people to explore social networks, take classes, start businesses, and experience a wide range of languages and cultures. Second Life also offers access to vast range of audio content, including live music performances, presentations by speakers, and educational forums.

See http://www.tvwsp.com/questing/visionquests.html for details.


Notes to Editor

For further media information, please contact Chris Dyson or Vicky Bell in Guide Dogs’ Communications Department on 0118 983 8281 or 8379 or 07768 523996.

For information on the Vision Quest, contact Jena Ball (aka Jenaia Morane) in Second Life at Jenaia@tvwsp.com


Saturday, 27 June is Helen Keller Day and the official celebration of Max's arrival in Second Life. The overall theme and goal of the event is, ‘Inclusion for everyone in employment, education, entertainment, and social engagement through Second Life.’ A wide range of creative and thought provoking events are planned.

For a full list of events and times, please contact Janyth Ussery (aka Saxet Uralia in Second Life) at saxeturalia@gmail.com

Virtual guide dog Max has been created by Virtual Helping Hand.

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