Kim Kiyosaki with iPad in one hand and virtual reality goggles in the other

Women Gaining Traction in AR and VR

A new path to entrepreneurship is ripe for the picking

When you hear the term “virtual reality” or “augmented reality,” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s a kid playing a video game, or a millennial tinkering with some trendy app. Well, you’re right…but there’s a lot more to it.

First, let’s define what these terms mean, as they are often incorrectly interchanged:

Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or re-creation of a real life environment or situation. The user (who typically wears a headset) becomes immersed in the experience, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on top of an existing reality, giving the user the ability to interact with it. AR is developed into apps and used on mobile devices to blend digital components into the real world. This technology is becoming more mainstream, so you’ve probably already encountered it—for instance, AR is used to display score overlays on televised sports games.

This technology offers versatility to every industry—it will absolutely change the way consumers make purchasing decisions. It allows brands to offer potential customers a way to participate and interact with them, without being intrusive. After all, wouldn’t you prefer to see how furniture at Ikea would look in your home before you bought it, hauled it home and then spent the next three days trying to follow the instructions on how to build it?

A New Industry For Women

Ok, so why am I bringing this up? Because this is a hot industry—one that could, quite frankly, use a woman’s touch. You see, the gaming industry has been a traditionally male-dominated field, and gender inequality in tech is a widely recognized issue. But AR/VR is not relegated to gaming; it’s moving into areas like film, education and healthcare. Because this technology is in its infancy stage, women have a chance to get in at the ground level and shine. And I’m pleased to report that they are:

Caroline Stokes, human capital developer who founded Forward, weighed in on the VR trend and how women are getting involved: “VR requires talent from all entertainment and technologies and women are naturally gravitating toward it. The market is wide open right now. Solving VR challenges and finding the best solutions and experiences requires the best minds with different viewpoints and competencies to solve the challenges of this immersive entertainment. Talent from film, VFX, education, games, mobile, audio, storytelling, programming are all experimenting with this. Gender bias is less visible possibly due to the race to create innovative experiences and only the best adaptable minds will help win the race, which means this game isn’t gender specific like a pure technology play.”

VR producer and curator Catherine Allen, who led two of the BBC’s first VR experiences, says: “I have a lot of hope for this emerging industry—I hope that we can learn from the mistakes of tech’s past. Women were written out of computing history. This cannot and should not happen with VR.”

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is doing his part to support gender equality in tech: “Supporting women in tech is a big deal. The tech industry needs more women. We need their perspective and talent. But many aren’t getting a fair shake. We need to level the playing field. My aim is to help with both influence and everything that happens beyond funding. I support the Global Fund for Women, Girl’s Who Code, and small businesses run by women.”

Women Who Tech, a national nonprofit working in partnership with the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund to break down barriers to women in the tech industry, announced the winners of the Women Startup Challenge VR and AI in February this year. The competition marks the fourth Women Startup Challenge since June 2015. To date more than 1,500 women-led startups have participated and nearly $1M in cash and other prizes have been awarded to winners and finalists.

Could AR/VR Be Your Next Business Opportunity?

According to Digi-Capital’s Augmented/Virtual Reality Report 2017, by 2021, both AR and VR are expected to be a $108 billion market. Ladies, there’s no shortage of money to be made here. If VR/AR is something that interests you, now’s the perfect time to break onto the scene. Given the number of women-owned start-ups finding success, doesn’t that sound like a great path to entrepreneurship?

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