You may not realize it yet, but virtual reality and augmented reality are how we will interact with technology in the future. It’s fully immersive, and a much more natural way to interact with technology. We are on the cusp of a revolution in this space, with all of the largest companies in technology launching their own forms of VR or AR. Over the past few years, I have attended industry events, tried the latest headsets, and have even started developing VR experiences.
I’m not afraid because the technology is too immersive or realistic (which may be another issue), but because the field of virtual and augmented realities are being shaped by one demographic. Men. There are a few women in the field, but not close to enough. From my small sample size, it seems around 10% of the people interested in developing for VR are women.
This is part of a larger issue in the tech industry in the United States, where women make up 59% of the workforce, but only 26% are in the tech field. It’s even worse in leadership roles, with only 22.5% female.
We are at still at the tipping point for this technology, and we can make a difference now. This is too important of a paradigm shift in technology, and we can’t mess it up with a lack of diversity.
“Virtual and augmented realities are being shaped by one demographic. Men.”
Make up tech workforce
Why should women get involved with VR or AR?
Virtual reality is no longer just a gimmick for a cheesy arcade, and all of the major tech companies realize this. It’s estimated that this industry will reach $150 billion in revenue within the next four years. Additionally, the hardware in this space has made tremendous improvements, leading to major investments in the virtual and augmented reality spaces. Facebook bought Oculus Rift for two billion dollars, Microsoft is developing the HoloLens, and Google has invested hundreds of millions into Magic Leap.
These companies realize that VR and AR are our future, and you should too. This future shouldn’t just be shaped by one point of view, and women need to get involved as soon as possible. For the near future, VR will primarily be used for gaming, but it once the technology evolves, it will move into all areas of life. It’s important to get started now.
How can women get into virtual and augmented reality?
- Get hands on experience with virtual reality. You can’t really understand the impact of VR or AR until you try it. You can start with something cheap like Google Cardboard, use the Samsung Gear VR, or jump right in with an Oculus Rift or HTC VIVE PRE.
- Join VR and AR communties in your area or online. This will help you stay up to date on the latest trends in the industry, and try out many of the new VR and AR devices, games, and experiences. Here is a good group to get started.
- Empower young girls to get into technology and science. These fields have been shaped by men for too long. We need different viewpoints, and we need them from an early age.
- Start developing some simple virtual or augmented reality experiences with Unity or Unreal Engine. Each one of those engines has great tutorials on their sites.
- Join the Women in Virtual Reality group and surround yourself with other people in the field.
While the lack of women in this industry has been one of the most glaring issues, it will be important to ensure that people from different races, genders, and cultures get involved as soon as possible. We need to get different viewpoints into the creation of this field, and we need to do it now.