Women Are Taking Back Tech – First Stop: VR

Women in VR didn’t bother shattering glass ceilings; they built a world with no roofs.

Female VR artists are dominating the industry, and making one giant leap for womankind by setting the tone for the field before the technology is even fully developed. It’s no secret that the tech industry is largely male-dominated. We have made progress, but the divide is still there. There are so many career paths laid out for women, but in a world where maps haven’t been drawn, that’s all changing.

Virtual reality is so new that there are no rules. There are no patterns, habits, or unspoken standards. This means it’s more open to newcomers. Before any “boys clubs” had a chance to develop, women stepped up and took over, and they’re using the power of VR to make a lasting impact.

We saw this first-hand last month at Sundance. Hyphen-Labs, an (amazingly cool) team of women of color showed their VR experience “NSAF”, which hopes to change how society interacts with black women.

By putting the viewer in the shoes of someone else, VR generates compassion, empathy, and kindness in the real world.

The women of Hyphen-Labs chose to focus on race and gender because of its presence as an issue throughout history, and VR’s ability to tap into our full emotional experience. “VR affects us on a cognitive level. We believe that through increased exposure to virtual realities created by women of color, we can decrease prejudice and bias,” noted Ashley Baccus-Clark, a speculative neuroscientist at Hyphen-Labs. You read that right, speculative neuroscientist.

In an age of TV/music/social media all fighting for focus, undivided attention is rare. The full-immersion experience VR offers can transport viewers to a refugee camp, show them first-hand what its like to be cat-called, or show you the beauty of a culture’s traditions.

In turning a secondhand experience into a shared one, VR bridges the canyon between two people whose paths wouldn’t have crossed.

From the massive presence of women in the field to the potential for changing minds, Virtual reality could be one of the most effective tools for change of the 21st century. VR artists are designing for change from the start, and women are using VR to break barriers that will carry over into all tech, and soon, the world.