Elizabeth Hyman XRA association

“Inclusivity must be at the forefront of metaverse development”

According to Liz Hyman, CEO of the XR Association, the metaverse represents a paradigm shift in how we interact with digital content and each other. It holds immense potential to reshape industries and enhance communication.

Liz, the hype surrounding the metaverse has somewhat faded. Could that shift in attention benefit its development?

Yes. While initial hype generates excitement and attention, it can also lead to inflated expectations and rushed implementations that may not fully consider important factors such as privacy, security, and inclusivity. As the hype settles, it allows for a more realistic and balanced approach ensuring that the Metaverse is built on a solid foundation. We are on a multiyear journey that will lead to technological progress and widespread adoption of the metaverse. But it is already available today!

Could you please provide an overview of the current use cases of the metaverse and how it is being utilized today?

Beyond the often-mentioned example of gaming, the metaverse has applications in areas such as social media, education, training, remote collaboration, and even healthcare. For instance, virtual reality simulations are being used to train medical professionals, allowing them to practice procedures in a safe and controlled environment. Additionally, virtual meetings and conferences in augmented reality are providing more immersive and engaging alternatives to traditional video calls.

Can you elaborate on the benefits and opportunities it presents for businesses?

The metaverse opens up totally new avenues for businesses to connect with their customers, partners, and employees in more immersive and personalized ways. Immersive means that you can experience something with multiple senses without physically being there. This new opportunity enables companies to create unique experiences and engage with their audience on a deeper level.

Like what?

The metaverse can revolutionize remote work by creating virtual office spaces that mimic the real-world environment, fostering better communication and collaboration. Furthermore, businesses can leverage the metaverse for product demonstrations, virtual showrooms, and interactive marketing campaigns. For example, digital twins¹ are helping companies from BMW to Siemens to take on complex engineering and design tasks with distributed workforces and achieve greater efficiency and productivity. By immersing customers in virtual experiences, companies can create stronger brand connections and drive deeper engagement.

¹ Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical objects or systems that use real-time data to analyze and optimize their real-world counterparts.

The metaverse holds significant potential for artists and creators. How can they leverage this technology?

They can showcase their talent and reach a global audience. Artists can bring their creations to life in ways that were previously unimaginable.

They can utilize the metaverse as a platform to exhibit their work, collaborate with other artists, and engage with fans. Virtual galleries, concerts, and performances enable artists to transcend physical limitations and connect with audiences worldwide. Additionally, the metaverse provides new revenue streams through the sale of digital artwork and virtual merchandise.

Privacy is a significant concern. How can organizations address this issue?

It's crucial that corporations prioritize user data protection in the metaverse. One approach is called "privacy by design." This principle involves embedding privacy protections into the design and architecture of the metaverse applications from the very beginning.

Corporations can implement privacy-enhancing technologies, like anonymization and encryption, to safeguard user data. Additionally, providing users with clear and transparent privacy policies and giving them control over their data empowers them to make informed choices about their personal information.

Giving users control over their data empowers them to make informed choices about their personal information

How does the XR Association work with public authorities to establish appropriate regulations?

It's essential to have an open and ongoing dialogue. By working together, we can help policymakers understand the potential of the metaverse while addressing any concerns regarding privacy, security, and ethical implications.

As an example, the XR Association advocated for immersive technology to be incorporated into the US Chips and Science Act (2022), which aims to bolster the domestic semiconductor industry and channel increased resources to critical emerging technologies. The Act designates “immersive technology” as a key technology focus area, making it eligible to receive part of a 280 billion US dollar research and development fund.

We can create a metaverse that is accessible to everyone

How can we ensure that the metaverse is accessible to individuals with disabilities and really promotes inclusivity?

Accessibility and inclusivity must be at the forefront of metaverse development. It's crucial to design metaverse experiences that accommodate individuals with disabilities and promote equal participation.

This involves incorporating accessibility features such as alternative input methods, captioning, audio descriptions, and haptic feedback to make virtual experiences more inclusive. Collaboration with disability advocacy organizations and involving individuals with disabilities in the design process can help ensure that these features are effective and meaningful.

Furthermore, addressing barriers related to affordability, usability, and assistive technologies is essential to promote inclusivity in the metaverse. By prioritizing accessibility and actively engaging with diverse communities, we can create a metaverse that is accessible to everyone.

How can you educate the public about the metaverse and its potential impact?

We have launched several educational initiatives, including a comic book-style infographic called “Into the Digital World”, intended as a primer for general audiences with limited background knowledge in XR. By promoting digital literacy and offering resources for learning about the metaverse, we can ensure that individuals are well-informed and prepared to engage with this transformative technology.

The digital divide remains a concern, with access to technology varying across different communities. How can we address the issue?

To address the digital divide, we must focus on increasing access to affordable internet connectivity, computing devices, and necessary infrastructure in underserved areas. Partnerships between the public and private sectors can play a crucial role in providing these resources and expanding digital inclusion.

Additionally, initiatives that promote digital literacy and skills development are essential. By empowering individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate and utilize the metaverse, we can ensure that they can fully participate in this digital landscape.

The interview was conducted by Yann Couronneaud.

Elizabeth Hyman XRA association with VR equipment

About XR Association

XR Association is an organization at the forefront of advancing the development and adoption of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality technologies. Its 47 members represent the broad ecosystem of the XR industry including headset manufacturers, technology platforms, component and peripheral companies, internet infrastructure companies, enterprise solution providers, and corporate end-users. The founders of XRA are Google, HTC Vive, Microsoft, Meta, and Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Yann Couronneaud

Yann Couronneaud

… has been Head of Communications & CSR for Deutsche Bank in France for 15 years. He is highly intrigued by the metaverse, driven by a deep curiosity to explore its transformative potential, while maintaining an objective stance and withholding final judgment on its full implications.

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