#1171: XR Association Updates on XR for All Foundation DEI Effort, Tech Policy, & Accessibility

On November 1st, 2022 the XR Association (XRA) trade association for VR, AR, and Mixed Reality companies announced the formation of the XR for All Foundation at XRA’s Limitless Future Conference. The press release says, “The XR for All Foundation’s main priority will be supporting the development of a diverse and equitable workforce for the immersive technology industry through broad-based research and impactful partnerships for generations to come.” I had a chance to speak with XRA President and CEO Liz Hyman and XR for All Foundation Chair, Jessica Lindl, who also heads up the education and social impact work at Unity Technologies. I was able to get more context on this new 501(c)(3) non-profit, and the various Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts that the XR for All Foundation has planned starting with conducting focus group research with aspiring and transitioning workers.

The XR Association is a 501(c)(6) organization that allows them to lobby congress on behalf of XR industry members including companies like Meta, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and Sony. The XR Association has also been involved in previous accessibility efforts with XR Access, but the DEI efforts of the XR for All Foundation will be largely separate and distinct from the XR developer education efforts, XR accessibility initiatives, as well tech policy advocacy headed up by the XR Association. I was able to get some clarification and updates on each of these fronts throughout the course of this conversation recorded back on December 12, 2022.

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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So in today's episode, I'm going to be covering the XR for All Foundation, which was announced on November 1st, 2022, by the XR Association. It's a trader association that represents the ecosystem of VR, AR, and mixed reality companies. They announced it at their Limitless Future Conference. In their press release, they say that the XR4ALL Foundation's main priority will be supporting the development of a diverse and equitable workforce for the immersive technology industry through broad-based research and impactful partnerships for generations to come. I wanted to get a bit more context as to what their broad-based research and their approach was going to be. generally the difference between what's happening at the XR Association and all the ongoing efforts that they have in terms of accessibility, and how that differs from this new effort that is a diversity, equity, inclusion effort that's starting from this nonprofit foundation called XR for All, which includes Accenture and Microsoft, as well as Unity. So I had a chance to sit down with president and CEO of the XR Association, Liz Hyman, as well as Jessica Lindell, who's the chair of the XR for All Foundation, as well as the lead education and social impact work at UNH Technologies. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the WSIS VR podcast. So this interview with Liz and Jessica happened on Monday, December 12th, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:38.554] Liz Hyman: Hey, Kent, Liz Hyman. I am honored. This is my second time joining you. And I'm the president and CEO of the XR Association. We're a nonprofit industry trade association. So we represent a broad spectrum of companies from hardware manufacturers, platforms, enterprise and commercial solution providers, developers, etc. But just recently, we finally launched a foundation that is a sister to our trade association, and it's called the XR for All Foundation. So it's meant to be a kind of a think tank, charitable entity to really think through things around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the XR industry. So great to be here.

[00:02:22.960] Jessica Lindl: Thanks, Liz. Hi, I'm Jessica Lindahl. I lead our education and social impact work at Unity Technologies. For those of you who may not know about Unity, we power much of the world's video games and then XR across many, many, many other industries. Our vision is the world is a better place with more creators in it, and in particular, more diverse creators that can foster a more inclusive and sustainable world. And then as you heard from my title, my work is really around empowering the future generation of creators and doing it from a thoughtful and inclusive perspective.

[00:03:00.147] Kent Bye: Okay. And so, yeah, maybe for each of you, I'd love to hear a little bit more context to each of your individual backgrounds and your journey into working in this space.

[00:03:08.444] Liz Hyman: Yeah, so I was trying to think about this question because I recall it from the last time I was here. And I think I shared with you that I started my career sort of at the intersection of government, law, and technology. And I had this memory that I thought I would share with you. One of my first jobs, I was very, very honored. to be a special assistant to the Attorney General, who was Janet Reno at the time. And I'm about to date myself horribly, but I remember sitting in my office and one of my colleagues came in and said, hey, we're going to do this briefing session for the Attorney General. It's on this thing called the World Wide Web. Do you want to come in and see what it's all about? And I was like, yeah, that sounds really cool. And, you know, obviously that was a life altering moment for so many people who may not have been in the technology field, but how it made technology something that was going to be integrated into your lives. And, you know, that kept going. I worked at the vice president's office, Al Gore. So obviously there was a lot going on there. But throughout my career, I've had this honor and privilege to sort of intersect where policy and technology is. And then about 10 years ago, when I put on a headset I was like, oh yeah, this could be a thing. And here I am now, all these years later, really at the forefront of what I think will be the next computing platform. So very exciting.

[00:04:35.527] Jessica Lindl: Thanks Liz you and I didn't realize we have a similar origin story I sent out hundreds of resumes in my junior year of undergrad 1993 and ended up getting an internship at the FCC to research this whole Internet thing and see if it should be regulated in any way. I spent then the first half of my career primarily focused on ed tech. So the power of technology to improve education access and quality realize that all of these young people were spending most of their time playing video games and then did pivot into video games. But again, from a learning perspective, and had the opportunity to build a company on Unity about 10 years ago, and just became enamored by the potential of 70% of young people playing video games, all of them wanting to mod and create, and seeing that as a pathway into economic mobility.

[00:05:31.031] Liz Hyman: I knew we got along, Jessica. Thank you. It was awesome.

[00:05:36.214] Kent Bye: And Liz, I know we we've had a discussion before about one of the XR policy conferences that you had both last year and one this year, but I know that the XR association is a certain type of organization that's bringing together a lot of the immersive industry, I guess, kind of like a trade organization. And now there's this new XR for all foundation. So maybe you could just give a bit more context as to both the XR association and this new organization called XR for all foundation.

[00:06:02.387] Liz Hyman: Sure. I'll start with the XR Association. So I mentioned at the top, it's a nonprofit industry trade association. So what that means is what you said, right? We're bringing together different aspects of the industry, but we're focused on a few things. We're trying to address research and best practices. We've put out Now our fourth chapter of our developers guide, which is sort of a set of best practices for developers to think about certain things like safety and ergonomics or accessibility, norms and behavior, and now education in the high school context and above. Like how you think about creating experiences with all of these different perspectives. We also do a lot of work in public policy. So one of the things that we're pretty proud of this year was you may have been following the Chips and Science Act, which a lot of people were really paying attention to the chip side, which had to do with semiconductors. But the science side is authorizing funds to make available for research and development for different emerging technologies. And when we first saw the bill, there was no mention of immersive technologies. And so we worked with a number of folks up on Capitol Hill, namely the Reality Caucus, and we were able to get that piece in, immersive technology. So it's now eligible for this research and development funding. But that's just one example of the type of work that we try to do here in Washington, D.C. to help build the industry. But we also focus on, you know, we put out a guide this year called Into the Digital World so that we can explain in a very understandable infographic way how the technology works, what different cameras and sensors do vis-a-vis different experiences. So we're really about transparency, trying to educate policymakers, and to build best practices for the industry. So that's the association side. And then we were like, look, there's great work that is underway right now by other organizations when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, because we all know how important it is, right? So you think about a group like XRSI and their Beyond Inclusion efforts to get diverse populations into training. Jobs for the Future is doing some amazing work in terms of identifying what the different job roles are and how to encourage businesses, and particularly small businesses, which are the biggest employer, you know, per numbers, big employers, to understand the power of XR for training and upskilling so that we can get more diverse populations into jobs across the board. But where we found there was a gap or where we wanted to help add to the conversation was, how do we make sure that we're getting diverse populations into the XR industry to build these technologies and experiences from the get-go? Because I don't know about you, but I tend to think that if you have representation, if you have diversity in terms of who's making this stuff, it's going to translate into how the technology works, how it helps others to get into opportunities that they might not otherwise have. And so that's what the XR for All Foundation is focused on, is how do we make the XR industry diverse, inclusive, equitable, all of those things.

[00:09:29.647] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe you could give a few more words on the other initiatives that you've done before with the collaborations with XR access effort that, you know, have like a whole GitHub and for some of the other efforts that you've had leading up to this and how that relates to this new XR4L foundation of some of those previous efforts that you had are going to be folded into this foundation.

[00:09:50.186] Liz Hyman: Sure, so glad you brought that up. So one of the developer guide chapters that we did early on was on accessibility and how to make sure that developers were thinking about how to make our XR experiences as accessible as possible to people of all abilities, regardless of physical ability, cognitive, et cetera. How do you make this built in from the beginning, which is not easy to do as we've seen in past incarnations of technology. And so I was really thrilled to be able to participate and interact with the XR Access team, if you will. And they gave us great input and advice on the guide. We reached out to others, published it. And then with the XR Access community, we're like, well, okay, these are best practices, but Are there people developing code that might be able to help implement these types of things? And that's the GitHub that you mentioned, where we put up the different recommendations, and now people can get onto the GitHub to actually fill in with code that might realize some of those things. But to your larger point, again, it is about representation and inclusion. How do you get people to have an opportunity to use the technology, to share their experiences with broad audiences through the technology. And so that really did, I think, influence our feeling that we needed to go a little deeper in terms of how the technology is built from the get-go.

[00:11:23.675] Kent Bye: Yeah. And Jessica, I'd love to hear from your perspective, what was it about the XR for All foundation that you saw that was worth having a larger presence there from Unity, along with all these other organizations that are a part of being a part of this foundation? Maybe you could give a bit more context as to how you saw this issue within the context of Unity and joining into this foundation.

[00:11:45.956] Jessica Lindl: Sure, that sounds great. So I think it's three reasons. Number one is how are we bringing together like-minded partners, which we're doing already on a one-off basis, but not in a cohesive effort. The second is just really deep understanding, as you've heard from Liz, on how are you thinking about inclusivity in a new space, in an innovative space, with all of the opportunities and challenges. So the thoughtfulness of this, the, I wouldn't say, you know, I think that what Liz and the team bring to the table is a moderately conservative approach. They're not all about the hype and we like that thoughtfulness. So number two is the thoughtfulness. And then number three, I think it's a really deep understanding of how to partner across an ecosystem, whether it's federal governments, local governments, key private players, as well as the small and medium sized businesses. So just really bringing together an ecosystem approach.

[00:12:42.532] Kent Bye: Yeah. As I look at the press release that was being released, there was a number of other people that are on either board directors from both Unity that we have Jessica here, who's a chair, but we also have Accenture and Meta and Microsoft. And so, yeah, Liz, maybe you could give a bit more context as to the other organizations that have like an executive board, but also a broader collaboration for who else is collaborating in this XR4L foundation.

[00:13:06.865] Liz Hyman: Yeah. So Kent, we started with the companies that you just mentioned because A, they're deeply thoughtful about these topics, number one. Number two, they are a subset of our association membership, but they are working to expand this conversation well beyond their own company footprint, right? So we've been working with them sort of for mindshare. We really sat down, we said, this is what we wanna do, but how do we go about doing this? So we ended up sort of scoping in on hey, we wanna figure out how to get more diverse audiences and participants in the industry itself. Okay, maybe we need to talk to some of the industry leaders and they helped us to identify a good array of industry leaders that we could speak to, to start to create where we're gonna go from here, which is we're gonna do these deep focus groups. And I think where we're headed, Kent, is we're talking about two categories of worker. We're talking about sort of the aspiring worker, that Gen Z individual who's going into the workforce. And we're also talking about the transitioning worker, you know, maybe 30, 40 years old, looking to kind of switch gears a little bit. And this is the next frontier for the workplace and thinking about technology. And we're going to do some focus groups with these two segments, so that we can figure out like, how are we communicating what we want to do here. Sometimes it feels like we talk past the audiences that we really care about. And this is underserved communities and getting them involved in the technology. And so we want to understand what's resonating, what's sparking, what would spark their interest and desire to be a part of the XR industry and to stay in the industry. I don't know about you, but I'm always concerned, not just about getting people in the door, but retaining them and seeing a career that grows. We were all remarking just the other day on, I think it was in a McKinsey report about women and gender in XR. And it seems to be suggesting that we have higher numbers of women who are interested in XR, but not so many that are leading in those categories. And so part of that is making sure that you have a really healthy pipeline of women or others that want to be in the industry and understanding what's of value to them to stay and to grow and to become leaders within the industry. So those are some of the things that we're sort of tossing about. We hope to get to do all of these learnings and then get to a campaign And we're going to invite other companies to come on in and help us get that word out and do that. It sounds sort of trite, but recruiting really is really what we're talking about. How do we get a bigger message out there that this is an inclusive industry and it's one for the long run?

[00:16:11.838] Kent Bye: So yeah, I was part of the executive board of the Global Initiative on the Ethics of Extended Reality with the IEEE. There's eight different white papers that were produced, and one of them was on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. And I had a chance to talk to both Dylan Fox and Isabel Gannett Thornton. And I see it as kind of these two separate issues of the DEI, which is the diversity, equity, and inclusion, and then accessibility, which is how to make the technologies accessible. And so for me, those are connected, but they're also separate in their own each unique ways. And so I guess because the XR Association is working on the more tech policy side, I'd love to hear from you a little bit, Liz, in terms of what are the different types of things that are happening at the policy level? I know, for example, funding from the NSF, the National Science Foundation, or having the government be able to fund some of these efforts to do the research. I think the other thing that both Dylan and Isabel brought up was the American for Disability Act, the ADA, and how there's a pending lawsuit that was brought up against Viveport because they didn't have captions and their distribution of VR stories, these immersive stories. And because they weren't fully accessible, then there was a lawsuit saying that was violating the ADA. And so what Dylan had said is that unfortunately, a lot of these accessibility efforts often come at the hand of lawsuits, of things not leading up to a certain level of things like the ADA, and that the companies are often being forced to be compliant rather than doing the proactive work. So I'd love to hear both on the policy side, some of those things that you see are relevant discussions to some of these things that maybe XR for All Foundation may or may not be working on the policy level. Or if that's something for XR Association, love to hear your thoughts. And then we'll go to Jessica to talk about how Unity is kind of addressing some of these issues.

[00:17:53.431] Liz Hyman: Sure. Well, so first of all, let me just make a very clear delineation that the foundation won't get into lobbying around public policy. It can do some education, but it won't do some of the work that we do on the association side. But let me just say this. My experience so far, you know, I've been doing this for a little more than three and a half years, and accessibility was one of the very first topics that our membership wanted us to take on proactively. For all the reasons that you just stated, that, you know, when we look back to, for example, how the smartphone came to be, it seemed like it was a learning process and or a second thought in terms of this type of technology accessible. And all of the folks that I was dealing with for our association said, we don't want that to happen. We want to be thinking about these proactively and making sure that we're doing everything we can to make these experiences accessible. Some of it is the obvious transformation of the hardware technology. It's big and it can be difficult in terms of an out-of-box experience to get on to somebody who may have a disability. So those things are going to evolve as the technology gets better, the hardware gets smaller, lighter, more powerful, all of those things. But in the meantime, we need to be thinking about captions, we need to be thinking about different ways that the software can be developed to help folks that may have a disability use it. I think of and the work that they've done in terms of expanding and decreasing the room size that you're participating in. So, you know, you can have that accessibility from a visual, physical point of view. I think about some of the advice that we put in in terms of cognitive disabilities and making sure that you have an opportunity to redo a particular experience that you're in rather than lose it. And I think about the work that's ongoing at the WC3 and elsewhere on closed captioning. We did a recent get together on spatial audio. So my feeling is that there is a deep, deep desire to try to make this technology accessible while it's developing its hardware. And that's, you know, you have two timelines, right? And so you're trying to do everything you can through the software and the design that is available to make it accessible and to keep working on making the technology itself a better device over time.

[00:20:26.401] Kent Bye: And just a quick follow up, because one of the things that has been mentioned both at the conferences that XR Association has held and as well as I think Dylan had mentioned, and just in terms of the government funding in terms of either from the National Science Foundation, you mentioned the CHIPS Act. And so maybe talk a bit about where you see some potential vectors for funding and if some of that funding would go towards the XR for all foundation to be able to help spread that out to these different organizations to do the research directly, or if it's going to be redirected to other research organizations, like say in the university. So love to hear about some of the potential funding sources that you may be seeing either coming from the US government or other governments from around the world.

[00:21:04.150] Liz Hyman: Sure. And this is going to get a little wonky for the audience out there, which is appropriations versus authorizations. Jessica, you're probably familiar with this. So when Congress passes something like the chips and science bill, what it's saying is on the science side, we're authorizing the ability to appropriate. OK, so what that means is you don't have the dollars yet, but it's available if you can convince Congress to appropriate it. right? So our next step here with Chips and Science is to fill the pipeline with great recommendations for NSF or elsewhere to get the funding. So research universities who we actually partnered with and asked them to do letters and support, they're probably already thinking of different grant applications and opportunities, whether it's for accessibility or for use of XR in the medical context or education, whatever it might be, there's already, I think, going to be quite a pipeline of requests that go in. And then we all collectively have to make the case, hey, this money needs to be appropriated in order to implement some of these programs that are out there. Will the XR Foundation seek grant dollars? We may, but in the short run, what we're really trying to focus on is that pipeline and how to get diverse populations into the XR industry to start with. There may be some, and this is something, Jessica, we haven't talked about, but maybe down the road, we can think about studies that help in terms of further understanding and depth of what diverse populations need to be in our industry. But at the moment, there's no specific design on that.

[00:22:54.203] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. And going back to you, Jessica, I'd love to hear what initial efforts are already happening. And first let's start with accessibility, because I feel like there's maybe a little bit more of a technical solutions to some of those things, as opposed to the DEI, which doesn't always have like a technical thing that you can engineer within the program. But accessibility is certainly something that you're building these technologies. And I know that there's been different efforts of making things more accessible across the many different platforms that you have that's iOS and Android and also XR technologies. But I'd love to hear from your perspective, some of the efforts that are underway at Unity to address some of these accessibility issues.

[00:23:31.423] Jessica Lindl: Thanks, Kent. So we do have underway what you would expect around accessibility and being able to look at our technology, both from an editor and a runtime perspective, to ensure that both engineers and artists and developers who use the technology that need the accessibility support have it, and that you can also publish experiences that are accessible. I think more importantly right now, and just a reminder, we've got millions of creators in 190 countries around the world. More importantly right now is how do we think about the access to the product itself? It requires a high-end computer and a set of bandwidth that one can afford to be able to create what you want on your desktop. And so our focus has been and continues to be, how do we move this technology to the cloud so it doesn't require such a high-end device? And then how do we ensure that the data that's required when we do, and we do have some experiences in the cloud already, that the data that's required is minimal for people who are paying for essentially not unlimited data plans like we have here in the US. So that's, I think the key focus, the short-term focus for us right now is to ensure that the creator tools are accessible on as many devices as possible with the least amount of bandwidth required.

[00:24:50.846] Kent Bye: Okay. And I don't know if there's any specific things in terms of the, let's say for XR virtual augmented reality, if there's initial like accessibility efforts in terms of like making sure people who may be blind or who can't see, or if there's other things that you know are happening on the context of other dimensions of accessibility for actually interfacing with the technology directly.

[00:25:14.839] Jessica Lindl: Yeah, so for our technology, again, that's a key focus for us. We are also seeing developers who are using the technology to support accessibility too. Developers who are looking at players who really need additional support for accessibility needs and using the power of unity and additional hardware to meet their needs. That's also, I think, one of the benefits of such a strong community and ecosystem is what we can't support or afford to invest in, our developers are able to also support for players and creators alike.

[00:25:48.029] Kent Bye: And one of the other partners in this effort is Accenture. And I know that they've had like 60,000 VR headsets that they've gotten from Meta to onboard their new employees that they have coming in. And I think I've heard them mention that in that effort, they've certainly come across different accessibility challenges or insights into how to solve some of these problems. And so because you have like Unity, Accenture, Meta, Microsoft, you have all these big organizations that I know Microsoft, for example, has done quite a lot of different things in terms of making attachments into Xbox controllers to make them more accessible. And so Liz, I'd love to hear you talk about a little bit of how the XR4ALL foundation is going to be perhaps a hub for some of these different types of conversations that are going to be taken, like what each of these companies are doing or like what you see the role of this foundation is going to be to address some of these larger issues.

[00:26:39.450] Liz Hyman: Yeah, well, I want to come back to something that Jessica said early on, which is we've taken, I think you used the word modest, and I mean it in a good way, which is we're taking a very focused approach to the foundation. So what I mean by that is our work when it comes to accessibility is going to continue on the association side where we're in contact with Accenture and Microsoft and Meta, but also with a host of smaller companies that are also thinking about solutions and opportunities around accessibility for persons with disabilities. One of the things that we worked on this year was thinking about AOM, the accessibility object model for people with low vision. And I don't know that we've made any solutions here, but it led to a great gathering around spatial audio and how to think about how we organize things for people with low vision, et cetera, on the web basis for this. Those types of efforts are going to continue within the association. That's ongoing. But when I say modest in terms of what we're trying to do with the foundation, which is kind of separate, we're thinking about accessibility in terms of the large base of diverse populations. Again, how are we talking to them? What do they need to know about our industry and about the opportunities to be creators, to be engineers, to be all the different pieces of the industry that we know is required to build it out? What do they need to hear in order to want to come work here now? So on the one side, we've got the association. How are the tools going to be made to make the technology more accessible? On the other side with the foundation, we're really trying to figure out how do we tap the incredible and diverse group of people that we need to have making this technology. So it seems like an odd distinction, but hopefully that makes sense, right?

[00:28:52.594] Kent Bye: Yeah, just to reflect, it sounds like a little bit that the diversity equity and inclusion is going to be a big, big focus of the XR for all foundation. And that some of the more technical aspects of the accessibility is going to be more of the policy and stuff. And that's going to, what I understand at least is going to be more towards the XR association.

[00:29:10.900] Liz Hyman: Yep, that's it.

[00:29:12.900] Jessica Lindl: Jessica? I would also add that I think there's work happening when we focus on the DEI aspect of this. I do think it also is represented in the policy side. We're seeing from Unity's perspective that there's many governments now that are investing either in local communities or at a countrywide level, specifically on underrepresented populations and creating a really unique Again, ecosystem model where they're providing funding to universities or nonprofits to quickly upskill people, underrepresented people in these skills. Then they're giving tax incentives to the private sector to hire that talent as well. And so we're seeing that at a state level in the States and at a country level in many Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia and also the Middle East too.

[00:30:01.202] Liz Hyman: Yeah, and hopefully the work that we do will help educate folks to be able to tap into those things more effectively, right? Because you're now, you're positioning the technology in a way that, you know, makes sense that will create that pipeline and then appeal to the funders out there and can help sort of fill out the grant application. You know what I mean? Like now you've got some context there to be able to do this.

[00:30:28.328] Kent Bye: I know that Lawrence Lessig, when he talks about ways that he thinks about all the different intersections between the technology branch, there's the cultural branch, there's the economic branch, and then there's a policy branch. And so you have the XR Association is really focusing on the policy branch. And so that kind of leaves the cultural branch and the tech architecture branch, which maybe for DEI doesn't have as much. And so I think we're really talking about the economic aspect of like both the companies and the funding as well as the cultural aspect. And so when you look at those two things, then what are the ways that you're going to address this larger issue that is very systemic on a lot of ways? It's got many different levels and long intergenerational institutional biases, systemic racism, systemic sexism. accumulated over many, many decades. And so when you think about this as an issue, then where do you start to address it? And how do you start to kind of chip away from both the cultural aspect and the economic aspect in terms of working with the companies, but also educating and bringing the vector of culture when you address these issues and how the XR4ALL Foundation is going to start to, you know, what the strategy is for how to start to address it.

[00:31:36.937] Liz Hyman: Yeah, I guess maybe I can start and then Jessica chime in. I think early on, I mentioned we're focused on aspiring workers and transitioning workers. And one of the things that we're starting to get our head around here is that aspiring workers, that Gen Z population, they care deeply about the mission of their work. They have to have purpose. It has to be a purpose-driven experience. And by delving into this a little bit more, which we intend to do, you know, there's sort of a sensitivity that all of us, you know, that are in jobs already and are looking to create a diverse workforce. We need to understand what that means, right? Why is it? that a young person wants to have that purpose, how does it translate into ensuring that there's opportunity for so many people, not just themselves, and how the technology embraces that aspiration? And in the transitioning workers, what we're starting to get our heads around is, they're probably looking more for flexibility and ability to deepen and grow their professional experience so that they enter into those leadership ranks. So just by starting from these two populations, which are probably going to be the major source of workers, if you will, for XR, we start with that very broad aperture. And then when you start to think about whether you're of a certain race or ethnicity or gender or whatever it might be, sexual preference, et cetera, like what does purpose and what does leadership mean? And how do we start to think about layering that into our professional worlds in XR? How does that translate? So I don't know, Jessica, if you wanna. riff off of that one a little bit.

[00:33:32.793] Jessica Lindl: Yeah, I think the only thing I would build on, too, is from a culture angle. Really, this is about hearing all the world's stories. And, you know, we're currently only obviously hearing a segment of that. But there are already incredible underrepresented creators. And so, you know, centering their work, showcasing their work and letting them tell their stories is also hugely motivating to future underrepresented creators.

[00:34:00.322] Kent Bye: I know that in terms of the intersection of issues of DEI and XR, I know there's been a number of different companies who have done things like unconscious bias training to be able to unpack some of the different ways in which that unconscious bias is driving a lot of these different decisions. And so another aspect of this issue is the culture within the companies themselves and the resistance they may have into only hiring people that may look like them, or they may have other aspects of unconscious bias that are playing in. And so are there other dimensions of this issue of DEI that the XR for All Foundation that you foresee yourself looking at, not only just the workers, but also the people who are hiring people and how to bring about more diversity, equity, and inclusion within the broader XR industry?

[00:34:45.957] Liz Hyman: Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, we actually announced the launch of the foundation at something called our Limitless Future Conference. We just did it a couple weeks ago down in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was focused on the HR and learning and development professional in the sense of how can you use XR to better train and upskill your workers, get that return on investment, all of the sort of conversations that you have likely had quite a bit, but we thought it was a great venue to launch the foundation for many of the reasons that you just outlined, right? If you're trying to create learning and development tools in your workspace, you do have to acknowledge and understand unconscious bias, how things have sort of run before, and what the opportunities are now using XR and encouraging greater representation in terms of who makes XR to sort of break through. And those L&D and HR professionals are like the cutting edge of that conversation. So it was not to do the turn of phrase, but it was a conscious decision to launch this during that conversation, right?

[00:35:56.339] Kent Bye: Yeah. And I guess as you move forward, what are some of the different other efforts or initiatives that you have? Because I know that XR Association, as I've watched some of the different XR for Policy and other efforts that you're talking about, I see that there's this educational phase, you know, especially in the context of the policymakers that they have to just be aware of what even the applications are of the technology. And so as you're reaching out to these new workers, and they also may not be aware of the technology and its capabilities. And so I'm just wondering if you see if there's different phases and if like the first phase is more educational based, or if there's any specific call to action that you have for this.

[00:36:35.057] Liz Hyman: I was going to say, I wonder, Jessica, if you want to talk a little bit about where Unity sees, you know, the knowledge factor of the workforce, like why this effort is meaningful in terms of explaining what this is to the folks that you're trying to get in as workers at Unity, because ultimately that is the call to action, right, is come work with us, right?

[00:36:57.297] Jessica Lindl: Well, actually, the call to action is come work with our customers, because it's right. It's not just about, OK, we've got access to a Unity set of license and cloud services to grow our business. It's actually about and you're upskilling your existing talent or hiring a new talent to be able to move you in this direction. I think one thing that we haven't done on this call that I'm just going to introduce is just, you know, how do we think about XR? At Unity, we really believe that the internet, which is 2D today and static, will become increasingly 3D and real time. And so we just see this as a massive opportunity to look at how we can upskill and reskill new talent. into the broader technology industry. We're seeing lots of different industrial customers around the world who are starting to build out. Just like 25 years ago, you were like, hold on, I need a website and I need a web developer. There's now this question about, what's my XR strategy? either from an e-commerce perspective or a manufacturing perspective or a digital twin perspective. And so we look at this landscape as how do we partner with our customers to dramatically upskill existing or future talent to make them even more successful? And making sure, as we've discussed, we all know that more diverse teams create better outcomes. And so how do we take this as a chance to also bring in more diversity into their organization?

[00:38:26.712] Liz Hyman: Yeah. And I'll just add, I think, you know, obviously, we're starting with how to bring people into an XR career. But ultimately, over time, I think it also helps us to understand how to get underserved communities into an array of jobs because they're familiar with XR and the power that it has to train people in ways that we haven't seen before. You know, that job that you thought was out of reach now is completely something possible. I have often told the story, I was at an IWRA conference and I heard this wonderful story about the Nevada Public Library partnering with a company called LifeLake to create a training program to teach the delivery of dialysis. And this woman who lived in a remote area of Nevada was able to get a headset through the library system, trained to deliver dialysis, got certified by the relevant body because the training program met all of those requirements. And now she's working, I believe, on an Indian reservation in remote Nevada to be able to deliver dialysis. This is the power and the excitement, I think, of this technology, right? It gets people who might not otherwise have been able to have that job into that job. And so we start with, how do we make sure that the people that are building these experiences are representative of the world that we want? And then it radiates out. That's my hope.

[00:40:02.315] Kent Bye: And Liz, I'm wondering if you could give a bit more context as to the different organizational structures of both XR Association and XR Foundation, if it, if the XR Foundation is nonprofit and if you are planning on taking donations and funding from the participating companies, or if you're looking for outside funding and grants and yeah, just a little bit more about the institutional structure of the XR.

[00:40:24.090] Liz Hyman: So the XR Association is a 501c6, which is a nonprofit entity, but it allows us to engage with members of Congress and others, not just to educate, but to also advocate on behalf of policies that help the industry. So that's 501c6. The foundation is a 501c3. So yes, We are looking to bring in companies that will make contributions to this effort. Once we get a little stronger and up and running, we may well look for ways to get grant dollars and other contributions. So we're starting with a narrow aperture, try to get this done and done properly, and then build as we go along. As you know, it's It's challenging to do a nonprofit foundation, and we want to build it thoughtfully, step by step.

[00:41:16.037] Kent Bye: What do you see as the primary modality of communication? Are you going to have conferences? Are you going to be making videos? How are you going to actually be reaching the target demographics? What do you see as the next steps?

[00:41:28.422] Liz Hyman: Yeah, so I think I mentioned we're gonna be doing some detailed focus groups to try to get some of the learnings down. And then what we would like to do are sort of these mini campaigns, right? Where we go into a local community and we partner, we don't know with whom at this point, we're all working on it, whether it's a XR 101 session where we're bringing in teachers and others that are working with folks and telling them about the opportunity, whether it's, you know, going to a job fair, whether it's connecting, as Jessica mentioned, with state and local officials that are also trying to find opportunities for their constituents. It could be all of those things, but doing very focused campaign, you know, in locations along the way. And that's how we're going to try to build this from the grassroots up, right? And so it's meaningful to communities where people of diverse backgrounds live and share with them the opportunity and experience to get involved in this.

[00:42:28.449] Kent Bye: Yeah. One thing that I'd throw out there is as cable has been dwindling, there's all these cable access organizations around the country that their funding has been decimated over time. You know, that was part of a policy driven thing that as you had television, that you would have ways for local communities to have access to the technologies. And so I would love to see some equivalent or either the existing cable access infrastructure that's out there that is facing funding crises. Those are potential resources, but also libraries seem to be a place. I know that in the United Kingdom, they've had different ways of distributing out immersive storytelling experiences to libraries and local libraries and how the libraries that are out there are an incredible resource and that libraries could be these hubs of technology and innovation that are already serving the communities to be able to provide access to books and also computers as well. And so I feel like that's a thing that the larger XR industry hasn't been thinking at that grassroots level of how to actually get into these different communities. It sounds like this may be an opportunity to start to do that, but there's already a lot of existing infrastructure in both cable access organizations, as well as libraries that are potential distribution channels for an effort like this.

[00:43:39.878] Liz Hyman: Yeah, I love that. I mean, I love the story about the Nevada Public Library. I also, there's a terrific book, I think it's called The Librarian. It's a nonfiction book by Susan Orleans about the Los Angeles and California public library system. And more and more, it's becoming not just a place of reflection and books and things of that nature, but it's a community center, a center of community and the role that it can play. So I think those are, absolutely spot on how we use these institutions that are central to so many people's lives to help provide access, to provide opportunity.

[00:44:20.334] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, as we start to wrap up, I'd love to maybe get a wrap up from the XR association side, Liz, in terms of like reflecting on the year, what you were able to achieve. I know there was an effort to try to get November to be declared like XR month. And there's also from that tech policy side, let's say polarization that's happening in a lot of things that may be difficult to always have XR be at the top of the legislative agenda. But I'd love to hear any reflections on this year and what you see coming up for focuses for XR association as you move forward.

[00:44:50.365] Liz Hyman: Yeah, thank you. I mean, first of all, again, we're really excited about the Chips in Science Act. That was big. You're right about the November XR month. It didn't get introduced. So we're going to do it again next year. As some of you know, that's often how it works in Congress. You have to persevere. So we're going to continue on that. But we're also focused on thinking about legislation and approaches that can help with the access issue, not accessibility, but access in terms of getting opportunities for rural and urban communities and how it can be used for jobs and upskilling. So that's something we're going to pay attention to in the coming year. We also want to focus a little bit on the intersection of XR and healthcare. I think from an education point of view, I think it's important for policymakers to understand this year, we did a focus on education, the nexus of high school and above with XR and how transformational it can be in the classroom. And next year, we want to really focus on where where it's going with health care and how that might help our policymakers understand the impact of the technology. So those are just a couple of things. But you're right, Kent, we continue to really try to work through a lot of interesting issues that I don't think have come to the fore just yet. And it's important that we work on developing materials, education, best practices when it comes to things like privacy, when it comes to things like what age is appropriate to use this type of technology, when it comes to big conversations out there around interoperability. So we have a lot on our plate. And what we're trying to do is to bring together a good cross-section of stakeholders you know, whether it's civil society or academia, industry, etc. We need to bring good minds together to go through and talk through a lot of these challenges so that we can address them before they become an issue. So that's what we're working on.

[00:46:53.837] Kent Bye: Yeah. And Jessica, I'd love to provide you an opportunity if there's anything you want to reflect on, you know, the different aspects of things that Unity's been working on. I know there's XR for good efforts that have been happening there. Also other, other things that are happening on the XR and Unity side. So yeah, any other thoughts from your perspective in education or other ways that you've been either personally working on or things that you just want to shout out, things that Unity's working on in terms of XR?

[00:47:15.977] Jessica Lindl: Thanks Kent. So I'll continue with Liz's build on the XR Association and just close with join us because I think it is just an incredible opportunity to have a diversity of perspectives and that's what we need to be successful. And then in addition to joining us also really thinking through your own labor force, there continues to be a gap just like there is in tech overall around most employers are looking for a minimum of a few years of experience and it's incredibly hard to get that zero to two to three years of experience. So think about apprenticeship type of models, really creating the entry-level positions to be able to grow your future workforce. And then I'll just close with a Unity plug. We're just wrapping up our Unity for Humanity open call, which is all XR experiences that have an impact in sustainability, diversity, social justice. So please submit for that open call.

[00:48:11.903] Kent Bye: Okay, yeah, and I always like to ask my guests, what each of you think the ultimate potential of XR and XR for all might be and what it might be able to enable?

[00:48:23.050] Liz Hyman: Wow, I mean, I think the sky's the future. And what I hope is that efforts like the foundation and I'll plus one to Jessica, companies that are out there, please consider joining us, not just for the association, but also for the foundation, both. But the idea that, as I talked about earlier, that it doesn't matter where you came from, what your background was, this is an ultimate democratizing tool. And let's use it as such. Let's make opportunity available because of XR. And it could be because of gaming. It can be because of education. It can be because of health care, whatever it might be. But I think it is the ultimate democratizing tool. And that I'm proud to work with.

[00:49:06.396] Jessica Lindl: I'll just close with Jeremy Bailenson's quote that it's really an empathy machine. And so I think the potential is a greater sense of belonging and connection for humanity.

[00:49:15.363] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there, is there anything else that was left unsaid that you'd like to say the broader immersive community?

[00:49:22.242] Liz Hyman: Just excited for the next year. We go through these sort of waves of activity. And I think the trick is for all of us to keep an eye on the long horizon. And I feel like these conversations, the work that you do, Kent, the work that Jessica does, the work that we're doing, we see that long horizon and I'm excited about it. So thank you for the opportunity to join you today.

[00:49:48.702] Jessica Lindl: Yeah, thank you. Thanks so much.

[00:49:51.840] Kent Bye: So that was Liz Hyman. She's the president and CEO of the XR Association, as well as Jessica Lindell. She's the lead education and social impact work at Unity Technologies, as well as a chair for the XR for All Foundation. So a number of takeaways about this interview is that first of all, Well, there's a split between what the XR Association is working on in terms of accessibility and access and the policy stuff. And I was able to get a bit of an update on all that stuff, as well as what this new effort of the XR for All Foundation is going to be focusing on, which is primarily the diversity, equity, inclusion efforts. And they're starting with a campaign of doing some focus group work with both aspiring and transitioning workers. to try to get a sense of what is going to really interest and spark them getting involved into the XR industry. Overall, they're trying to bring more diversity, equity, inclusion into the XR industry through these specific campaigns and efforts that are still yet to be determined what that will exactly look like. And some of the other tech policy side, which is much more on the XR Association side, there's different appropriations and funding that are becoming available that are going to be more directed towards other efforts for accessibility. But Jessica did also mention that there are going to be other efforts that are happening from the tech policy level of the government to support nonprofits to be able to do upskilling for workers, as well as give certain tax exemptions for hiring folks from those programs into their workforce. So yeah, just broadly trying to bring up more diversity into the XR industry and all the various ways that they plan to do that. So we get a little bit of a sneak peek, although it does sound like that they're still in the process of defining specifically all the different things that they're going to do. But the first part is going to be reaching out and doing these focus groups. Yeah. And they announced it at their limitless future conference, which is including lots of different HR and development professionals that were using XR for learning and development tools and other types of upscaling. Also, just got a lot of other updates for the different types of projects that the XR Association has been involved with, trying to get the Congress to recognize a month towards bringing awareness to XR, getting into the ChIPSAC and different appropriations, working with different universities. just generally trying to educate, at this point, the different lawmakers around what XR technologies can and cannot do. As different legislation starts to come up, at least they're starting to be a little bit familiar with it. Their primary point of contact there is the Reality Caucus, where they're able to get some of the XR-specific language into something like the CHIPS Act. They're continuing to bring about more awareness and policies that are going to be benefiting the different XR companies that they're representing. Again, the XR Association is a 501c6 that allows them to engage in lobbying to Congress, and the XR4ALL is a 501c3 nonprofit foundation that is going to be separate from the policy advocacy and more supporting different efforts across the industry for diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you're interested in getting involved in any capacity, be sure to reach out and follow more information from the XR4ALL Foundation. So, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. If you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listserv-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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