Panel Recap: Augmented Thinking: Designing the Future

On Tuesday, May 8th, IxDA hosted a panel, “Augmented Thinking: Designing the Future,” to a packed house eager to hear about the frontier of augmented and virtual reality. Hannah Mintek moderated the panel, which included Jada Williams, Kelly Graham, Xuney Haley, and Brian Van Buren. The panel discussed issues around diversity and inclusion in the AR and VR space.

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All four panelists advocate for a diversity of backgrounds, views, and opinions on their teams, but they all agreed that there's little diversity among the current pioneers. It is, however, a new frontier ripe to be diversified. Brian Van Buren noted that VR is a level playing field because it's in the nascent stages, “so if you have the right answer at the right time, then you can be a part of it.”

The panelists were most excited about AR and VR’s potential to broaden people's experiences and connections. Avatars' value proposition, according to Kelly Graham, is representation, allowing people to represent their diversity, multiplicity, and creativity as they choose. Xuney Haley spoke passionately about VR’s power for immersive storytelling and experience sharing, an "empathy machine" as Hannah Mintek explained.

Nevertheless, the panelists’ optimism was tempered by the recognition that ethics need to be a central and ongoing focus. Brian Van Buren’s succinctly noted that “Accessibility needs of VR are as emergent as VR design itself.” Indeed this emerging technology requires us to be deliberate and responsive to ensure mixed reality is a beneficent blend of real and digital reality.

Amanda Snellinger