February 27, 2023
Veranstaltungen & Workshops
Events & Workshops
Gabriella Chihan Stanley

Going beyond the basics: How XR can improve lives inside and outside of immersive experiences

If you're expecting a typical blog post on how to use VR and AI effectively or how to make an AR filter in 5 easy steps, now is the time to close this tab and move on with your life. Instead, this post is about how XR can improve lives, including the ones of their creators, in and outside of the immersive experiences themselves. 

Imagine my surprise when I received an email announcing that my work in the immersive tech industry had been recognized with an OMOSIROI award in Osaka, Japan. I initially thought the email was spam! "We recognize your focus on emotions and care for people in your work at vrisch and its positive impact on people's lives," they stated. Additionally, they acknowledged my contributions to various communities, such as serving as the Austrian Ambassador for Women in Immersive Tech, being a board member of the Latin American XR artist collective MAIX LATAM, and founding the XR community XRVienna. Everything would have ended in a "yeah, right. You're awarding me. ME. Please" if it weren't for the Vienna Business Agency writing me that same day and telling me they would contact me from the OMOSIROI awards on some excellent news.

Image about Omosirioi Awards
The World OMOSIROI Awards are held each year in Osaka, Japan

Knowledge innovation as the base for good tech and social change

A little bit of a background story: the OMOSIROI awards showcase people from around the world whose work and ideas represent the values of OMOSIROI (fun, interesting, amusing) from a perspective of knowledge innovation as the most fundamental element for unforgettable experiences and social change. Now, put the meaning of this award in the context of what I will tell you now. How could a 41-year-old cultural patchwork mom like me make it to such an award among celebrity media artists, planet-saving scientists, and pioneer educators? I was sure they had made a mistake, and they would see that during my keynote talk, where they would expose me in front of a conference hall full of disappointed people. Anxiety and self-doubt invaded my thoughts. Not me. Not now. Not like this.

Learning Japanese business culture through an email and a friend

I drafted one of the most polite emails I've ever written, declining my physical presence at the ceremony, even understanding that this might mean I would lose the award. I knew enough about Japanese culture to understand that a no-show for a prestigious prize signifies a sign of disrespect. Still, the dread of being exposed as the impostor I believed to be in the country that had been number one on my bucket list since childhood pushed me back to the comfort of familiarity. I showed the draft to one of my best friends, Shingo, a Japanese artist, as a last attempt to determine whether I was doing the right thing. "There is no way you're not going to this, Gabs," he said. "You ARE going. Fuck me proofreading this email for you, and let's get you ready for this trip." And this is how my Japan Business Culture 101 masterclass began.

Impressions from trip to Japan
Getting the XR space ready for the big day. Plus sushi and green tea!

17,5 hours and two planes later, I arrived in Osaka in the evening. The keynote rehearsal and exhibit setup started the following morning. Jet lagged, and with my hands filled with cables, adapters, computers, and VR headsets, I arrived at the venue, where a joyful organizing team lined up to greet me, all eager to help me in every way possible. I installed the tech at the stand and practiced my keynote on stage, accompanied by the translator and the tech team. Only there did I find out my 10-minute presentation was meant to include the time reserved for simultaneous translation —a glorious thing to find out when you invested a great deal of time creating a 10-minute story-based presentation! "Off to a great start," I thought. 

VR here to change lives forever. Including our own

Then came the next day. I slipped on my glittery shoes for good luck and headed to the venue. I stood at my stand, welcoming women, men, and children from all ages and backgrounds. 95% of them had never tried VR before, and almost an equal percentage were scared to do so, but they were just as curious. I kneeled next to them and held their hand. I explained to them what would happen before, during, and after the experience. I looked into their eyes and told them, "it's ok to be scared. It's going to be alright. And when you get out of that headset, you will have experienced something unique that will change your life forever." That's when I realized that they and I shared the same fear of the unknown. And this realization not only empowered me to stand on that stage later that day and share my message to the world, but it also materialized the words I've been preaching for so long and failed to have faith in them myself: good VR is less about hardware and more about people. 

Woman on Stage presenting in front of an audience
Immense joy to have introduced a new audience to applied immersive entertainment. In Japan, no less!

And through this moment, I found my place in the XR industry. I'm not a metaverse expert, or a futurist, or a developer, or a media artist. Instead, I'm a connector, a bridge, a multicultural neurodiverse immigrant mother representing the voices of many, and an advocate for human connection using immersive technologies as my tools. But, most of all, I'm a deliverer of understanding and knowledge for people who want to consume and create meaningful technology that brings them closer together instead of pushing them apart.

it was the first time they could see how technology has the power to bring us closer, help us understand each other, and encourage us to learn, understand, and have fun together—not replacing our humanity, but enhancing it. 

After what was now my 20-minute keynote talk, translation time included, one of the juries raised his hand. And I couldn't contain my tears when I heard, "we need more people like you in this industry." One after another, people came to me after the talk. They shared their stories on how, up to this day, they have been afraid of their loved ones disconnecting from nature, each other, and themselves for the sake of this scary metaverse that promised to come and give them everything they've dreamed of. They told me it was the first time they could see how technology has the power to bring us closer, help us understand each other, and encourage us to learn, understand, and have fun together—not replacing our humanity, but enhancing it. 

People on stage
XR is a bridge between art and tech through human experience. And it needs us all to remain human

For an XR industry that's less about hardware and more about people

So what happens next? What now? The path forward in XR is both simple and complex. To you, future hunters of virtual experiences, I encourage you to remember that XR is not just about the technology or the buzzwords but about human connection. Take the time to get to know the people behind the experiences you're consuming or planning to create, and invest time in understanding their intentions. As for you, kick-ass XR creators, fall in love with the people on the other side of those XR devices. Understand them. Care for them as much as you care about your work's message and technical quality.

As for me, my goal is to continue creating immersive experiences that improve people's lives while using all platforms I can to support and uplift underrepresented voices in the XR industry. XR needs more than technologists. It needs dreamers, mothers, connectors of hearts, science geeks, and nature lovers. Humanity is a tapestry of experiences, and the best XR experiences are forged by harnessing the power of this diversity that exists among us. I believe that XR has the potential to truly transform the way we connect with one another and the world around us, and I'm committed to being a part of that transformation.

Last but not least, let's remember: our epic stories, physical, digital, or phygital, won't begin until we defy our known universe. So dare to defy what you know, and enter a new exciting reality. 

Are you looking for a partner who cares about creating immersive experiences that improve lives? Look no further than vrisch. As an award-winning immersive tech company and specialists in applied immersive entertainment, we're dedicated to crafting emotionally resonant experiences that connect people through meaningful entertainment. Whether you're an individual or a business, VR here for you to help you harness the power of XR to achieve your goals. Contact us today, and let's bring your vision to (extended) reality!