Disability or Diffability?

Exploring notions of perfection and vision impairment in a cooperative virtual reality environment

There is no such thing as perfection, only trade-off between strengths and weaknesses. Just as in computer games where characters can be created by dividing a finite score among possible powers, in order to focus on one area of strength you need to neglect other areas that then become weaknesses. In the animal kingdom, the cheetah has reached perfection in terms of speed but can only sustain this effort for 30 seconds, ultimately being outrun by most prey. Conversely, a weakness in one area can be compensated for by developing a ‘superpower’ in another. One such example is the use of echolocation by people who are blind – attuning their attention to the echoes off surrounding surfaces to navigate through the world.

This project explores notions of perfection for Science Gallery Melbourne’s PERFECTION season in the context of ‘disability or diffability’. Two participants coexist in the same virtual reality environment. One has ‘typical’ abilities such as visuals and simple sounds. The other participant has no typical visuals but has a heightened sense of sound and the ability to use echolocation. The echolocation takes a simple form: the participant can look in a direction and experience an audio reflection, as well as an abstract visualisation of sound waves leaving the player and bouncing off objects in their path. The two participants are required to work together to locate and capture as many mysterious creatures as possible. Only by working together and combining their abilities can the pair locate and capture as many of the rampant creatures as possible, realising that it is the combination of our individual differences that can lead to the ‘perfect’ solution.

The experience will be shown as part of the PERFECTION season, running 12.09.18 – 03.11.18 at the University of Melbourne.


Project Members

Matthew Butler
Leona Holloway
Mike Yeates
Su-Yiin Lai