Since I’m shutting down the Mixed Reality for All website, I want to preserve the final write up of the project’s strategy; here is is.
Cutting edge tech often takes a long time to reach low-income and marginalized communities. Hard-working community groups struggle to train a handful of people so that a trickle of the billions of dollars generated by this new tech reaches their community. But what if instead of being relegated to the back of the bus, these communities grabbed a seat at the front?
We believe there’s an opportunity to do this in the emerging fields of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others are engaged in a fierce battle over which handful of players will dominate this new industry. If community groups work together, they can leverage this battle to ensure their communities can help shape the course of this new industry. In doing so they can:
- Create jobs, co-ops, small businesses, etc. and obtain a seat at the table so their communities benefit economically
- Create a model for communities to ensure all other emerging technologies benefit them economically — especially as robots/AI begin automating away other jobs
The Key: Make AR/VR Development More Accessible to All
For the tech companies competing over AR/VR, accessibility is a key strategic advantage. If we can make it much easier for regular people from South Central to Harlan County to develop AR/VR projects, it’ll also be easier for corporate developers, “power users,” and other staff to do so. Here’s how we’ll do it:
- Smooth The Learning Curve. Most new tech makes it easy to do a handful of tasks. But as soon as users need to go beyond the point-and-click basics, they hit a dauntingly steep learning curve. So, use user experience design (UX) to figure out how to redesign AR/VR development tools and frameworks to smooth out the learning curve from absolute beginner to seasoned pro. In doing so, ensure that over time more and more people in the community learn not only how to use existing tools and but how to create new ones — and in doing shape the industry’s direction.
- Create a Community-Oriented Approach. One-time trainings are a good place to start, but to gain fluency most people need ongoing technical and psychological support. So, develop an ecosystem of support, including strategies to plug into social institutions people already belong to.
Build a Model: use our experience with AR/VR development to create a model for changing the culture of emerging tech. The goal: all emerging tech is designed from the ground up so it’s easy for people in every community to get started and easy for them to “level up” their skills as needed. This model will also open up the debate over what it means to “democratize” technology.
- Community Groups: members of marginalized/low income community groups, whose voice and needs will drive the project. Their goal: to create jobs and business/co-op opportunities in their communities, building ownership and ensuring they control a seat at the emerging tech table.
Tech Community: a diverse group of tech designers, coders, and AR/VR experts who care passionately about working collaboratively with low-income communities and creating a diverse tech community. Their goal: help the community while learning new skills and building their resume
Tech Players: a few individuals from the main AR/VR players, to provide informal technical support/expertise and to begin a dialogue about what it means to “democratize” their technology. Their goal: to make their tech more accessible and help their company win a piece of the AR/VR pie.