When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works

Home / Reviews / Apps and Games / Android / App of the week: Notes on Blindness VR review

App of the week: Notes on Blindness VR review

Discover what it’s like to be blind in this mesmerising and emotionally charged VR experience

It’s become something of a cliche to talk about the ‘second screen’ regarding viewing habits. Even so, there’s no doubt touchscreen devices started a quiet revolution in the way we consume media. Increasingly, we experience, interact with and learn about concepts in ways that would have been much harder to get across using traditional television.

With Notes on Blindness, this is keenly felt as you immerse yourself in the decades-old recorded notes of John Hull, who finally fell blind in 1983, after years of steady deterioration. The six-part documentary is part diary-on-tape, part interactive experience as you listen to John’s words, and understand his experiences through being enveloped in a world primarily constructed from audio.

Lighting the darkness

Lighting the darkness

It’s a disconcerting experience as you explore the darkness, which is punctuated only by pinpricks of light that ape the kind of echolocation effects seen in wildlife documentaries – and comic-book movies about visually impaired superheroes. Mostly, you learn how things appear and disappear without warning in this world. John talks of hearing a voice from a nearby lake: “Suddenly, my children are there. They were not there until they cried out.”

You become very aware of activity, and that, as John says, without activity there is no sound, which means that part of the world then ‘dies’. The disconnect between the sighted and the blind is explored through weather – wind making for a nice day as far as John is concerned, through bringing noise and feeling, whereas a sighted person looks only for a clear blue sky.

Panic stations

Panic stations

Although keen to explore beauty – notably in a section about a choir – Notes on Blindness sometimes veers into darker territory. A piece on panic features an ominous, foreboding, claustrophobic soundtrack, which proves harrowing enough with an iPad in front of your face, let alone when using the app with Google Cardboard. Then, your own reference points disappear as your senses grapple with their new realities. The doubt and uncertainty in moving through a world with which you’ve lost a major connection is palpable.

From a production standpoint, the audio is exceptional, balancing John’s crackly recordings and lavishly created binaural audio environments. The visuals and some infrequent ‘gameish’ elements are, perhaps, less successful and sometimes a distraction. But they do provide an entry point for a wider audience.

Regardless, Notes on Blindness is an excellent showcase for how technology can immerse you in situations that help you comprehend circumstances you yourself may never naturally experience. “I think I’m starting to understand what it’s like to be blind,” muses John towards the end of the recording. On trying out this app, you might get an inkling yourself.

Notes on Blindness VR is available for Android, Samsung Gear, and iOS.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

A cleverly realised journey into what it’s like to be blind that deserves to be experienced by everyone

Good Stuff

Immersive VR experience

Superb audio

Compelling narration

Bad Stuff

No playback controls

Visuals can be a distraction

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.