At SXSW in Austin, IQXR (a Mesmerise Group Company) co-founder and chief product officer Ally Kaiser joined a panel discussion on “Fostering Virtual Worlds: Building the Responsible Metaverse.” Moderated by Derek Robertson of POLITICO, the panel also featured Grace Hwang from Microsoft and Brittan Heller from Stanford University. Together, they explored XR technology’s vast potential and stressed the importance of collaboration to make virtual spaces safe, accessible, and inclusive for everyone. 

Here are the top five takeaways from the panel, offering a roadmap for the journey ahead in XR development: 

 1) The Necessity of Proactive Governance in XR

 Derek Robertson initiated the conversation by underlining the importance of proactive governance. He argued that it is essential to establish governance, policy, and ethics well ahead of technological development. The panel agreed that just as in the early days of the World Wide Web, we must not delay setting standards for responsibility and ethics in the Metaverse. 

 2) AI’s Transformative Role in XR Development

 The discussion then shifted to the role of AI in XR, met with Brittan Heller’s enthusiasm for integrating AI into XR devices. This advancement promises to redefine the industry beyond gaming by bringing practical tools that unprecedentedly enhance our capabilities. Heller highlighted the near-future innovations like smart glasses for real-time translation, which are expected to revolutionize communication across different languages and cultures. Heller captured the essence of the technological integration we’re experiencing, saying, ‘I see XR everywhere in ways that people don’t really acknowledge as part of this physical, digital ecosystem we’re all moving into.’ She cited specific examples where this technology is already taking root: ‘There’s a VR headset for training in every Bank of America, which trains people to deal with bank robberies. There are several headsets in every Walmart, used to train people on work procedures and how to manage the influx of customers on Black Friday.’ Heller’s insights highlight the expanding use of XR in various sectors, indicating a shift toward immersive experiences that are starting to redefine professional training and customer service.”  

 3) Embracing Inclusive Design in XR Spaces

 Ally Kaiser spoke with conviction on the importance of inclusive design, emphasizing that it is insufficient to cater solely to the average user; instead, designers must consider the full spectrum of human diversity.  This approach has turned accessibility options like closed captioning from specialized features into common improvements, embodying the ‘design for one, extend to many’ philosophy. Kaiser believes that inclusive design is synonymous with excellent design. ‘A lot of inclusive design is just good design. Period. It should absolutely be part of every designer’s process from the very start,’ Kaiser explained. She sees it as an opportunity for designers to lead the way, helping to redefine user needs and desires within XR technology, not just for today’s average user but expansively on a global scale, recognizing and addressing the different requirements that diverse groups may have. This forward-thinking approach can challenge and expand our current design paradigms to be truly inclusive. 

 4) Privacy and Security Challenges in XR

 Grace Hwang spoke on the nuanced topic of data ethics in XR, emphasizing the critical need for privacy and security measures as AI becomes more integrated with our devices. She underscored strong data governance’s importance in protecting users’ biometric information. Education about data consent and the users’ control over their information is not just necessary—it’s essential for safety in the Metaverse. Grace reflected on the ethical decisions facing the industry, asking, ‘Should technology determine what’s right and wrong?’ She noted that the approach is inclusive at Microsoft: ‘We have the Inclusive Tech Lab, which serves as a space for people with disabilities to contribute directly to the design process, embodying our principle of “nothing for us without us.” Their input is invaluable for innovation.’ By involving underrepresented groups, Microsoft aims to ensure that XR technology advances with a broad spectrum of perspectives. 

 5) The Imperative for International Collaboration

 Brittan Heller also emphasized the critical role of international collaboration in developing XR technologies. With 2 billion people still lacking internet access, the panel acknowledged the importance of creating virtual spaces that are accessible to everyone. The panelists called for industry-wide collaboration and alignment on standards to ensure that XR technology serves a global audience equitably. 

 The conversation at SXSW provided a valuable perspective on the trajectory of XR development. As the industry moves forward, achieving a secure, open, and inclusive digital future requires collaboration across industries and disciplines. Ensuring that technology serves as a force for good will create opportunities for all and help us avoid repeating past mistakes.  

 The future of XR is not just about technological advancements but also about shaping these advancements to be ethically sound, user-centric, and sustainable. As we embrace this new frontier, let’s carry the insights from SXSW and work together to create a Metaverse that embodies the best of our collective human spirit. 

 Learn more about IQXR and its commitment to shaping the future of XR, making virtual spaces safe, accessible, and inclusive for everyone. Team | IQXR