Holidays are around the corner, and 2021 is the year the largest number of individuals and organizations will be getting into XR. Sensing the urgency to create data, privacy, ethics, and safety, the XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) celebrates the 2nd Week of December (Dec 6-10 ) as the
XRSI, the first global nonprofit with the mission of helping build safe and inclusive immersive realities, launched XR Safety Week to engage the XR community worldwide and give a platform to those groups and individuals interested in building a better and safer Metaverse. The week is designed to help connect, collaborate, and share your knowledge or passions in the XR space with others. This year, we focus on the areas of Immersive Storytelling & Journalism, Child Safety, Diversity & Inclusion, Medical XR, and Privacy, Safety & Digital Human Rights.
The week will start with an eye on the challenges and opportunities posed by XR in telling stories and reporting on global issues such as the climate crisis. Then, crucial topics such as Child Safety, Diversity, and Inclusion, will take the stage on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday will be dedicated to the most discussed topic in every reality since 2020, healthcare, through the lens of immersion. And finally, on Friday the 10th the community will celebrate Digital Human Rights Day with many different initiatives, all focused on privacy and safety as foundations for better and safer immersive realities.
Metaverse has become a new hot buzzword, even before Facebook’s announcement of their rebranding and the new, unique importance of XR in their business.
The term originated in the book Snow Crash, by Neil Stephenson. In this foundational novel, a digital drug/computer virus called ‘snow crash’ is killing people in the virtual world. It’s a dystopian caricature of the future where our existence in the real world is inextricably linked to our agency in the virtual. Our realities blend seamlessly and what happens in one space affects all others. Throughout the book, Hiro, the protagonist, investigates connections of ancient Sumerian text and veiled relation to ‘snow crash.’ In a conversation with the Librarian - a highly advanced AI assistant - Hiro is told the term nam-shub, most closely translates to ‘incantation’ in English - a suggestion that the computer virus is like magic. Hiro, considering nam-shub, proclaims to himself:
“A speech with magical force. Nowadays, people don't believe in these kinds of things. Except in the Metaverse, that is, where magic is possible. The Metaverse is a fictional structure made out of code. And code is just a form of speech—the form that computers understand. The Metaverse in its entirety could be considered a single vast nam-shub, enacting itself on L. Bob Rife's fiber-optic network.”
The implication for the story, and our own journey into the Metaverse, is strong. There are many different definitions and interpretations of what the ‘Metaverse’ is or will be. It’s still very early days - much must be defined, debated, and decided before a consensus opinion will rule. But we can definitely say that the Metaverse can become a magical place - but we will all engage and interpret our time there differently, and for different purposes.
The truth lies in what we make of it. As the XR community builds the code of the metaverse, we are constructing the Metaverse through our discourse. It is critically important that organizations, regulators, and companies come together to help build the structure of the metaverse. We can definitely learn from the success and the failings of the internet. We need to build the metaverse deliberately, and responsible innovation needs to be the driving force of everything we do. Just consider the terms - ‘responsible’ and ‘innovation’. Two words at odds. When we think of responsibility, we think of rules and standards, and being intentional. Often when we think of innovation, we think of creativity, freedom, and trying new things. These don’t have to be opposing concepts. We can create a magical metaverse, a place rife with innovation and creativity - but we can do it responsibly - we can put structure in place that ensures a safe, private, inclusive, and equitable time for all. XRSI has begun this effort with the Privacy Framework 1.0 and is working hard to update to 2.0 with exceptional volunteers and policy advisors globally! And we commend the tremendous effort of everyone in the industry who makes it their own personal responsibility to innovate in this mindset. I personally can’t wait to see what becomes of web3.0 and the metaverse. I am also confident that we can do it safely.
We look forward to seeing everyone from Dec 6th thru the 10th for XR Safety Week. We will be hosting events throughout the week in AltspaceVR - we hope you can come and join us. You can find more information on XRSafetyWeek.org and follow us on social media at @XRSIdotOrg on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more details and announcements.
XR Safety Week is an international community effort, led by the XR Safety Initiative, featuring industry leaders from around the world and spanning five days. XRSW 2021 will explore the challenges of Extended Realities (XR) in critical areas of the immersive ecosystem.
A place for discovery, with talks on theoretical and practical aspects of the industry and how to move it forward from leading international experts. Partnering with educational institutions, XR Safety Week delivers the skills, ideas, and forethought to everyone interested in building our future with awareness.
At XR Safety Week, we celebrate the opportunities to create a better and safer Metaverse for all, spreading awareness and promoting policies, guidelines, and research. We explore core issues such as bias, transparency, and data ownership through art, panels, debates, and workshops, bringing global perspectives to advance our shared ecosystem.
See you in the Metaverse!
Matthew Price, PhD
Program Director - XR Safety Week
Hosted by XRSI