VR_AR Global Summit highlights - diversity of thought and action 2

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Increasing diversity within immersive technology will ensure it reflects the audience it serves. Several sessions on the final day of the virtual VR/AR Global Summit offered insight into how this can be achieved

Quick read

➨ First up was the panel discussion dedicated to the topic of ending bias within immersive technology. The speakers stressed that to understand bias within immersive technology, all participants need to accept that any technology is about people, both the audience it’s developed for and it’s developers
➨ A separate, later session focused on equity and access to immersive technology in education. Focal Point Global founders Hussainatu and Hassanatu Blake said that virtual and augmented reality support networks are crucial to recreating educational systems
➨ Later, Sophia Moshasha, co-chair of the Women’s Committee, sat down with futurist, event speaker and technology thought leader Cathy Hackl to offer tips for building a personal brand

The story

Bias in technology, equity and access to immersive technology in education, and the Women’s Summit were among the VR/AR Global Summit sessions and tracks today that spoke of a greater need to increase diversity and make virtual and augmented reality more inclusive.

First up was the panel discussion dedicated to the topic of ending bias within immersive technology.

The panellists—Alex Porter and Timothy Porter, chief executive officer and chief technology officer at Mod Tech Labs, respectively, as well as Kiira Benzing, director at Double Eye Studio, and emergent technologist Christopher Lafayette—stressed that to understand bias within immersive technology, all participants need to accept that any technology is about people, both the audience it’s developed for and it’s developers.

Running with this point, Lafayette said viewing technology as the people behind it and who it’s for should encourage diversity in ecosystems, which will, in turn, level up immersive technology as a whole.

Lafayette stressed that ending bias in immersive technology entirely is unachievable, but helping participants to identify and mitigate against it will lead to more diversity and inclusion.

Benzing provided an excellent clarification of what diversity and inclusion actually mean, which can help to remove any bias that immersive technology participants may have about the two terms and their purpose.

She likened immersive technology to a table with a limited number of chairs. Increasing diversity and inclusion is not about telling their current occupants that they need to vacate them, but increasing the number available.

This set the theme for the rest of the discussion, with the panellists sharing ways and means of making immersive technology more accessible and inclusive, while challenging biases that incumbents may have.

Alex and Timothy Porter pointed VR/AR Global Summit attendees to a MOD Tech Labs Medium post on ending bias in immersive technology, which gives excellent examples of how technology itself can be used and what needs to be done within immersive technology as a sector.

Lafayette runs the Black Technology Mentorship Program, aimed at inspiring, educating and bringing underserved black communities into technology. As he explained during the panel, in order for XR to extend reality, it needs to bring reality with it.

Free, safe and interactive opportunities 

A separate, later session focused on equity and access to immersive technology in education.

Focal Point Global founders Hussainatu and Hassanatu Blake said that virtual and augmented reality support networks are crucial to recreating educational systems.

Only by setting up free, safe and interactive opportunities to enable learners to become familiar with immersive technology can equity and access be achieved. At the same time, educators themselves need to be educated to help them create experiences.

Communities are also essential, because they serve as a sounding board and amplifier for what works and doesn’t work.

Hussainatu and Hassanatu Blake are doing exactly this with the TwinFold web series, which shines a light on the latest influencers, events, and resources in edtech. The series most recently featured Cameroonian rapper Stanley Enow. Check it out below.

Personal brand

The VR/AR Association’s Women’s Committee organised the Women’s Summit for this global summit, after launching last year.

Sophia Moshasha, co-chair of the Women’s Committee, sat down with futurist, event speaker and technology thought leader Cathy Hackl to offer tips for building a personal brand.

A key message was that women should make sure they spend time developing their own voice and identity within immersive technology, to set them apart from the company they represent.

Hackl recommended starting with immersive technology influencers and building their knowledge. It’s also important to develop at least some technical ability, so that they have a base from which to engage in conversations.

Then, building a personal brand is all about content creation and finding platforms where they can consistently share their story. Vlogging, blogging, LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent places to start.

Check out the Women’s Committee and connect with Moshasha on LinkedIn to find out more.

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