Cyberpunk + XR

Cyberpunk is science fiction subgenre in a dystopian futuristic setting that tends to focus on a “combination of lowlife and high tech”, featuring futuristic technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with societal collapse, dystopia or decay (per Wikipedia). What Cyberpunk also often features are advanced demonstrations and uses of XR technologies: Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality.

In previous blog posts, we’ve mentioned KBZ which has created lists of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality films, Artificial Intelligence films, Hard Sci-Fi filmsMultiverse films and Technology films (often also featuring AR, VR and MR). KBZ has two new articles that look at various Cyberpunk films – the Top 20 Best Cyberpunk Films and the Top Cyberpunk Films You Haven’t Seen.

The Best Cyberpunk Films article is worth a read if you’re looking for some of the best AR, VR and MR films to watch. There’s quite a bit of crossover between Cyberpunk and XR tech and the article lists some of the best films like Ready Player One, Blade Runner 2049, Total Recall, The Matrix and others.

What we found more interesting was the Top Cyberpunk Films You Haven’t Seen article as it has some new and obscure AR & VR films we haven’t seen yet. There’s a recent film called Karmalink that has some advanced AR concepts, a film called Hardwired that features AR advertising and display concepts (via a brain implant) and Terminal Justice which features old school VR HMD’s, a virtual reality crime scene and AR eye implants for infrared and night time vision. There were also two additional films we would recommend every AR & VR fan check out: Virtual Nightmare and Natural City. Virtual Nightmare uses VR similar to The Matrix and Natural City is similar to Blade Runner and shows many advanced AR concepts integrated into a futuristic society.

KBZ also has a short video that highlights some of these films (with Cyberpunk AR, VR and MR concepts) and you can watch the video below.

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AR, VR, AI, Multiverse & More

We’ve referenced the KBZ Films site before as they’ve posted some lists of lesser-known Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality films. Recently, KBZ has posted an article of the Best AR & VR Films that has some great films listed (and that we’ve highlighted in the past on our blog here). From the article’s Top 20 rankings are some great AR & VR films including Avalon (VR), Auggie (AR), Brainstorm (VR), Sleep Dealer (MR) and Anon (AR). It’s worth checking the article out if you’re new to the XR field and want to see a list of the Best AR & VR films. KBZ also has a list of every imaginable film about AR, VR & MR that you can find here.

The KBZ site also has some other interesting articles to check out including a list of some great films about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and another article that highlights some obscure films about the Multiverse and alternate realities. The AI list of films is especially relevant as AI technology is also usually found in AR & VR films. The film Auggie comes to mind as the AR projection through eyewear is based on AI models of the person’s subconscious. Below are videos of some of the AI and Multiverse films referenced in the articles.

Finally, if you’re into Sci-Fi, there’s also some other great articles from the site including a list of the best time travel films and best time loop films. We’ve always found those films interesting as more recent time travel films have also included aspects of XR technologies.

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Is Metaverse Technology Improving Mental Health Treatment?

It’s been a wild past two years for us all. After experiencing the tumults of the pandemic, unforeseen market instability and a seemingly endless chain of global and civil unrest, the prevalence of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions has reached a staggering high. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has weighed in on the dangers of our mounting mental health crisis, with one scientific brief reporting a 25% increase in mental health issues since COVID-19 first hit the world.

The social isolation resulting from the pandemic was one of the biggest challenges our modern society has faced in the last century — causing unprecedented constraints on people’s relationships, work lives, communities and overall mental wellbeing. As a result, many people turned to virtual resources for work, regular communication and even medical care. It’s also for this very reason that 92% of businesses reportedly believe the pandemic has accelerated the development of metaverse technologies.

As we exit the final stages of the pandemic and look towards our first normal summer of the decade, it seems fitting that this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week would be loneliness. In honour of this year’s event, let’s take a look at how developing technologies are looking to improve mental health treatment, decrease the effects of loneliness and provide greater access to care — especially as we see metaverse technologies increase in popularisation.

Using XR technology to combat loneliness

When we couldn’t physically meet with our colleagues, friends or family members during the pandemic, video conferencing helped us stay connected — even if it didn’t exactly replace the sensation of real-life interactions. In keeping with this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, more immersive technologies have already been suggested by experts as an even better remedy for those experiencing social isolation and loneliness. The spatial nature of VR means that interactions inside more immersive games and metaverse platforms feel much more like being around people in the real world. 

During the pandemic, VR even found an unexpected new group of users — seniors. MyndVR has already worked with hundreds of senior living communities across the United States, seeing a significant surge in popularity within the last two years. Chris Brickler, co-founder of MyndVR, has remarked on the company’s reimagining from a youth-based gaming culture to a “very safe, secure and senior-friendly platform”. Moreover, he commented on the platform’s success during COVID: “We’re just super excited about providing this service to so many older people that are, you know, sometimes lonely, combating isolation.”

A recent study from Frontiers in Psychology has also concluded that XR technology and more immersive gaming experiences have positively affected users — particularly by “modelling the relationships between involvement, wellbeing, depression, self-esteem and social connectedness”. The study determined that, while there is a risk that VR can supplant in-person involvement, healthy social interactions within a VR environment still “benefit players by satisfying essential needs of belonging and connecting with others.”

Anna Bailie, a PhD candidate at the University of York, specialises in researching mental health cultures on social media — and she believes the future of how the metaverse will impact our mental health will improve, rather than harm our ability to connect with others. According to Bailie: “The metaverse has been sold as a place for community, sociality, making friends and maintaining relationships.” Furthermore, she believes that: “there’s no reason that can’t happen when we already see it on social media platforms like Instagram and Reddit, where people find communities which they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”

Improvements through immersive care

As we’ve previously covered, a recent peer-reviewed study from Oxford University concluded that patients who tried VR-based therapy saw a 38% reduction in anxiety or avoidant symptoms over the course of a six-week treatment period. According to another study, patients suffering from paranoia saw a decrease in their phobias — even after undergoing just one VR session. The immersive nature of VR is now understood as a way for us to trick our brain into thinking it is reacting to a more realistic encounter — an advent that can see patients develop healthier and more effective coping strategies.

Dr. Daria Kuss, lead of the Cyberpsychology Research Group at Nottingham Trent University, has touted VR technology as an effective therapy tool: “We know that particular psychology formats, notably virtual reality exposure therapy, can be fantastic tools to help individuals affected by a variety of phobias, depression, psychosis, addiction, eating disorders — as well as post-traumatic stress disorder — by gradually exposing them to the triggering, feared, or trauma-producing stimulus in a safe space (like the virtual environment).”

University College London (UCL) has been behind a series of clinical trials using VR to treat mental health conditions. The university has partnered with Tend VR to bring mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) — a type of face-to-face therapy that has been proven highly effective — into a virtual setting. According to Rebecca Gould, Honorary Clinical Psychologist in the Division of Psychiatry at UCL, “virtual reality-based mindfulness represents an innovative and novel approach to addressing this challenge.”

UCL also revealed a specialised VR intervention program that would substitute face-to-face therapy for depression, with the objective of helping patients increase their ability to exhibit self-compassion. Using a virtual room, patients are shown two virtual avatars — both a child and an adult. In the first segment, they enter the room as the adult — with the task of comforting the child until their stress is decreased. In the next segment, they get to play as the child — this time being comforted by the script of the adult. The compassionate script inside the module zeroes in on three key themes: validating experience, redirecting attention and activating a positive memory.

A growing body of scientific research now also supports the idea that certain psychedelics, when administered by a therapist, can support a range of mental health conditions — including depression, PTSD, addiction and various types of anxiety. Now, health experts are even looking to replicate the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy in the metaverse. Emotional Intelligence (EI) Ventures, a growing startup, is harnessing the power of VR to overcome geographical and economic barriers that have previously hindered people from accessing psychedelic therapies. 

After receiving a dose of a medically-prescribed psychedelic, EI users will embark on a virtual journey using their VR headsets. According to founder David Nikzad, each user’s vision will be specifically tailored to suit their unique background, personality and medical history — with the goal of delivering a “zone of comfortability”. He continues: Not everybody’s going to have the same comfort zone. I might like beaches and waterfalls, somebody else might want to be in the Swiss Alps. We can fine-tune that experience.”

Even current gaming tycoon Roblox, which has been praised for bringing users together through shared experiences, has recently launched greater initiatives to raise awareness around the importance of mental health and personal wellness. Sponsored by Alo Yoga, Roblox recently unveiled the ‘Alo Sanctuary’ in February — a metaverse island with a picturesque landscape, encompassing “three earthly elements of the brand name Alo — an acronym for ‘Air Land Ocean’.” Danny Harris, co-founder of Alo, has called “this first-of-a-kind partnership” a “longstanding commitment to supporting the mental and overall health of the global community at large.”

Providing greater access to mental health care

Many metaverse-related complaints we’ve heard within the past year have circulated around the idea that a more immersive internet will be more addictive than the one we live in now, thereby preventing us from embarking on healthy, socially-engaging lifestyles. However, the practicalities and flexibilities of VR are already proving that the metaverse will also make mental health treatment more accessible and even more plausible for people to access — giving it a very positive use case.

XR technology now makes mental health care accessible to anyone across the globe, regardless of their location or social standing. Users who have historically encountered physical barriers to mental health care can now see more affordable treatment options, all while receiving it through more immersive, lifelike and interactive channels.

Daniel Freeman, a clinical psychologist at the University of Oxford, has highlighted one problem he sees in the field of clinical psychology — that many patients are unable to attend therapy sessions due to lack of accessibility (including lack of transportation, rigid work schedules or fear of stigmatisation). As an alternative, his team has revealed gameChange — a programme entailing a six-week course, where participants can meet with a virtual coach from anywhere in the world to conquer phobias and other forms of paranoia.

Joy Ventures, a growing VC firm that is seeking the support of science-backed consumer products for wellbeing, has also pointed out the potential for VR treatment to be more personalised and adjusted to meet the personal needs of patients. Additionally, they’ve also stressed the scalability and flexibility of these technologies: “Even before the pandemic, social isolation, stress and anxiety were worsening problems — but with greater use of behavioural health technologies, people will have better and more accessible options for receiving the care they need.”

Final thoughts

While mounting research makes several clear arguments for why the metaverse will be a great therapy tool, it’s still important to note the number of potential health risks that are present. Several experts in the fields of both technology and mental health have already expressed concerns about how the immersive and potentially addictive nature of the metaverse can lead to a decline in mental health.

However, other experts argue that this issue is much more nuanced — asserting that factors like genetics, physical activity, diet or socioeconomic standing play a much bigger role in identifying mental health conditions. Nick Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, stresses the importance of context when referring to metaverse use: “[For example], a young person who may be LGBT and who finds an online context where they can feel a sense of social support — we would predict that that would be a benefit for their mental health,” he says. “On the other hand, if using metaverse technologies replaces non-online behaviours that are healthy and supportive to mental health, like appropriate exercise, engagement in relationships in real life, healthy sleep, time spent in natural environments, then they can be harmful.”

It’s critical that both the pros and cons of emerging metaverse technologies be highlighted. Clinical psychologist Barbara Rothbaum, whose efforts in the VR space date back as far as 1995, can vouch for the timeline in which we’ve seen immersive technologies develop and transition from academia to society. We are now at a stage where we can see the efficacy of VR technology from a clinical point of view, but she still insists that there are “some barriers” to overcome.

Overall, studies seem to be trending in the right direction. XR technology appears to have reached us at a pertinent time — when mental health and the effects of isolation have never been a greater concern. As such, we should expect to see the benefits of more innovative, flexible and accessible mental health care become more commonplace over time.

Can We Make the Metaverse a Safe Space For All?

From mid-90s forums to Facebook live streams, the topic of free speech on the internet is a decades-old conversation. As Web3 evolves and the building blocks of the metaverse take shape, AR and VR will lead to new forms of communication technology. Immersive experiences, such as 360-degree videos and avatar-based community spaces, will soon become common ways for users to interact with other people in real time. 

While these experiences are sure to transform how users connect, exchange information and express themselves online, there’s also room for them to do much more than overcome barriers of physical space. Potential issues — such as personal space violations, hate speech, verbal harassment and underaged access to explicit content — are just a few of the concerns that are being tied to the emerging metaverse. It’s for this very reason that frightening stories are starting to trickle into our newsfeeds — such as tales about online “groping” incidents in Meta’s Horizon Worlds, or reports of children being exposed to explicit content in popular metaverse gaming platforms, such as Roblox.

Let’s dive deeper into some examples of present-day safety concerns in the nascent days of Web3. We’ll also go over some solutions being suggested by experts, as well as how we can try to learn from some of our past mistakes in previous tech eras.

First — has the internet ever been truly safe?

For many years now, freedom of expression has been seen as a fundamental principle of successful modern society. Even UNESCO states that: “The principle of freedom of expression and human rights must apply not only to traditional media but also to the internet and all types of emerging media platforms, which will contribute to development, democracy and dialogue.”

Since its inception, the internet has enabled people from all corners of the globe to come together and be heard. The earliest era of the internet — now referred to as Web1 — was largely uncontrolled by media organisations, showing us the wonders of where effective, unrestricted speech could go. Public forums, chat rooms and early website builders allowed just about anyone to exchange ideas or discourse without the governance of online guidelines or oversight from policymakers.

The early days of the web also introduced two key components: free speech and anonymity. Anonymity granted users a newfangled sense of freedom and privacy, along with the liberty to detach their legal and physical identity from their internet persona if they so desired. An open, anonymous internet also allowed users to be more transparent, more objective and less biased when building friendships or connections. Platforms that required people to communicate using their real identities also weren’t really a thing yet — meaning that users could also choose to their personal data entirely offline.

Of course, this framework also moulded the internet into a de-facto “wild west” of sorts. Hate speech, should it have cropped up, was seldom regulated — and those who engaged in any sort of illegal activity were able to do so while more easily dodging accountability. In the words of an old Web1 expert: “It [was] almost impossible to control illegal activity, which [was] perpetrated or discussed over the internet since, in most cases, police [were] not able to track the offender down.”

In Web2, a good chunk of the internet was eventually consumed by Big Tech monopolies (namely Facebook and Google). With large teams and sophisticated content moderation models in place, centralised platforms found ways to mitigate online abuse and explicit content in a bid to keep communications safer and more age-appropriate. 

Photo by © RoSonic –

Facebook, for example, has always enforced a set of Community Standards to regulate all content shared on its grounds. This regulatory framework has enabled a system where any inappropriate content is governed by a team of moderators — who are always working to remove rules-violating content from the platform. However, platforms like Facebook and Google have also famously compromised users’ rights to free expression and privacy. In the last decade, the ethics behind Big Tech’s content moderation systems have also been the subject of extensive questioning and scrutiny.

The short answer? No, the internet has never been truly safe. The freer terrain of Web1 allowed for more unregulated expression and personal privacy but put in little stops to curb online harassment or prevent underaged audiences from being able to access explicit content. Web2 has arguably done a better job at the latter, but it has been at the expense of our privacy and rights to ownership. 

We’re now faced with the risks that will come with a more immersive internet. Unlike previous iterations of the web, user interactions will be encouraged to mirror real-world actions in the metaverse. While this will allow for more lifelike experiences and limitless opportunities for users to create and monetise, there’s a high probability that this model will also further exacerbate challenges for user safety.

Can we ensure safe communication in shared metaverse spaces?

As the concepts of physical and digital will be converged in the metaverse, it’s looking like the lines between good and bad contact might be as well. In light of this, concerns around physical and sexual assault have been raised — with many experts calling for increased preventative measures before the metaverse becomes more widely accessible.

Early iterations of Meta’s first Web3 offering — Horizon Worlds — was one such example of this. As Mark Zuckerberg’s first version of a metaverse space launched its first beta release in late 2021, so did the floodgates for safety concerns. 

While running a beta test in Horizon Worlds, a woman alleged that she was “virtually groped” inside the platform by other male users. Not long after this encounter, another woman reported being “verbally and sexually harassed” by three or four male avatars inside Horizon Venues.

Photo by © Diego Thomazini –

“Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense,” the first subject remarked. “Not only was I groped last night, but there were other people who supported this behaviour — which made me feel isolated.”

In all, the idea that female users could see their safety compromised in the metaverse is extremely concerning. In a 2021 survey by Reach3 Insights and Lenovo, 59% of women reported feeling the need to hide their gender while playing games online, in an effort to avoid being harassed. If we compare this data with growing initiatives to make Web3 more inclusive and welcoming for women, we can see that these numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

While Meta responded to the virtual assault quite rapidly, their action generated a mixed response. To deter any VR groping from taking place inside their virtual world, the company introduced the Personal Boundary feature for the Horizon series: an imagined “4-foot zone of personal space” that will encircle each users’ avatar to prevent any unwanted interactions. 

According to Meta staff: “Personal Boundary builds upon our existing harassment measures that were already in place — for example, where an avatar’s hands would disappear if they encroached upon someone’s personal space.” Moreover, they’ve argued that having the Personal Boundary system on by default will “help to set behavioural norms” — a feature that will be “important for a relatively new medium like VR.”

Will we see similar personal space boundaries envelop our metaverse avatars in all of our future online journeys? Will there be an increased need for women to adopt them while participating in online activities? 

Right now, it’s hard to tell — and even Meta’s representatives aren’t entirely sure if their latest solution is totally foolproof. According to Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s VP of AR and VR, moderating the “toxic environment” in a metaverse space “at any meaningful scale is practically impossible.” But while there may not be a magical answer, it’s becoming clear that — at the very least — new safety protocols will need to be outlined and evaluated as they are adapted to the conditions of Web3.

Can we keep explicit content age-restricted in the metaverse?

In any case, ensuring that the web is safe for younger audiences will always be paramount. Children born today will never have known a world without the internet or social networks, meaning that the likelihood that they’ll encounter something inappropriate will certainly increase as they become more active online.

Studies have shown that 56% of children aged 11 to 16 have viewed explicit material online, while one-third of British children have encountered sexist, racist or discriminatory content at some point in their lives. Examples of inappropriate materials that children have reported finding access to include pornographic material, explicit language, racist, sexist or violent imagery and unmoderated discourse.

Roblox, currently one of the most popular children’s games in the world, has been referred to as a “primitive metaverse” akin to decentralised Web3 platforms — namely for its ability to offer more immersive gaming experiences, a robust community and a space for users to submit and generate their own content. The gaming giant also recently came under fire for failing to regulate a plethora of games hosted on its platform. In spaces code-named as “condos”, pint-sized avatars could be found participating in sex acts and exchanging sexually explicit dialogue.

Photo by © Wachiwit –

Recent reports have also accused gaming platform VRChat — an application with a minimum age rating of 13 — of providing all users with open access to “metaverse strip clubs”. While posing as a 13-year-old girl, a BBC researcher alleges being subjected to sexual materials, racist insults, instances of grooming and even rape threats. Also, due to the experience being more immersive, the researcher also noted the capacity for users to act out sex acts in front of other users’ avatars.

Like Meta, Roblox has since outlined a plan to enhance safety for its user community. Big Tech companies appear to be racing to build metaverse spaces that will follow a set of strict guidelines — especially as they become increasingly more immersive and lifelike. Will decentralised platforms be able to achieve the same, or have the “condos” of Roblox given us an omen for how difficult these new spaces will be to police?

Just how harmful could a misguided metaverse be?

Given that the metaverse will allow such a wide range of interpersonal interactions, it’s only logical to assume that not all actions or expressions will be positive. 

Dr. Liraz Margalit, a digital psychologist who studies online behaviour, asserts that — like many already do on the internet — people will find ways where they can behave differently in the metaverse than they can in real life. While remarking on the dangers of future metaverse interaction, she’s claimed that: “You have the anonymity and you have the disinhibition effect. [Platforms can] provide you with the playground to do anything you want.”

We’re also posed with a significant question — is sexual harassment in the VR world still considered a form of assault? Should all metaverse platforms consider the need for imaginary “shields” or boundaries to deter the invasion of a user’s personal space? According to experts, sexual harassment in VR is still considered a form of assault — with “groping” or virtual coercion still being defined as offences, even if there’s no physical contact involved. 

Katherine Cross, a PhD student researcher of online harassment at the University of Washington, has defined it well: “At the end of the day, the nature of virtual-reality spaces is such that it is designed to trick the user into thinking they are physically in a certain space, that their every bodily action is occurring in a 3D environment.” As a result, these incidents are “likely to produce similar emotional and psychological reactions as occurrences of assault in real life.”

Moreover, we know that harmful online content can have a wide-reaching impact in the real world. Of course, where lines are drawn is largely dependent on laws, norms and expectations of particular users and platforms. However, there’s still no denying that any form of hate speech, harassment and misinformation can lead to greater risks in the offline world — such as the potential for targeted violence, social or political consequences and emotional damage.

What are some proposed safety solutions?

In order to create safer and more welcoming environments, metaverse platforms will need to ensure they equip their spaces with moderation tools that will prevent and discourage misuse. It’s also becoming clearer that there is a need for policymakers to begin tailoring internet safety laws so that they can better meet the growing needs of Web3. But in a decentralised internet no longer moderated by Big Tech platforms, how can this be achieved?

According to the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), “improvements in online safety are a matter of urgency.” And while the risks associated with VR and the metaverse haven’t yet been outlined in the UK’s upcoming Online Safety Bill, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has stated that the legislation will begin covering these new technologies. When passed, the bill will impose stricter mandates on what platforms and providers can share — with a primary goal of protecting children from explicit content.

A recent report on metaverse content moderation from ITIF has also emphasised the importance of third-party platforms mediating channels where immersive activity will take place:

“Without proper consideration for these shifting parameters of speech in immersive spaces, content moderation approaches — and the policies that restrict them — could have a chilling effect on individual expression or allow harmful speech to proliferate.”

ITIF suggests that policymakers should work with industry leaders to “mitigate the greatest potential harms from immersive content.” However, it’s also critical that all platforms — centralised or decentralised — are armed with the necessary tools and knowledge to establish proper content moderation approaches that will protect users from harm. 

One solution is for platforms to implement protections (such as established community guidelines) against real-world harms that could occur from activities in the metaverse — including non-consensual pornography, fraud, child endangerment and other forms of defamatory content. Another includes the creation of working groups that will provide guidance on intellectual property and copyright protections, to “promote innovation, fair compensation and creative expression in immersive experiences.”

In decentralised spaces, owners should also consider establishing voluntary guidelines that will encourage users to “identify, respond to and report on harmful content and content moderation activities.”

In Web3, decentralised platforms should ultimately find ways to harmonise safety and privacy by implementing user controls that will allow individuals to shape their own experiences and meet their needs and expectations. Age-gating controls could be put in place for underaged users, but we could one day interact within spaces where adult users would be given their own set of controls (such as determining how wide of a shield they’d like around their avatar, or which filters they’d like to enable). This would allow them to engage or not engage with certain types of objects or environments and make these decisions themselves.

Final thoughts

Throughout the internet’s lifespan, online platforms have continued to innovate to meet the cultural and societal requirements of users. Over the years, however, platforms have also struggled to provide a balance of established rules, content moderation, user privacy and individual user controls. Like other digital platforms, the metaverse will inherit many of these challenges — and as our world continues to explore a more immersive future, many of them will need to be reevaluated.

With that being said, it’s also become abundantly clear that many of us are not looking for a regulatory framework like Facebook’s to govern us any longer. Instead, Web3 should be a place where we can learn from both Web1 and Web2’s mistakes — where users, developers and policymakers can evaluate the lessons we’ve learned and build spaces that are safer, more open and more equitable than ever before.

In a decentralised internet, it’s important that we also try to build spaces that will encourage, rather than force approaches to keeping users safe. It’s hoped that users and developers will continue to be educated, that industry standards will continue to be revised and that effective self-regulation frameworks will continue to be built.

Women in the Metaverse: Veronica Lynn Harper

Multidisciplinary artist Veronica Lynn Harper knows no bounds. With over 15 years of experience in 3D character design and asset development, she’s worked with some of the gaming industry’s most notable trailblazers — including Sony, Electronic Arts and Atari. She’s even hosted themed events for Disney and Blizzard and spoken on a panel for women at the Sundance Film Festival.

With Web3 on the horizon, Veronica’s next ventures include exploring new forms of digital storytelling and turning them into more immersive experiences. She’s already created a roster of digital collections — such as downloadable stories, an upcoming NFT collection and much more.

As part of our ongoing series, we recently sat down with Veronica to chat about her humble beginnings, her upcoming projects in the Web3 space and what her idea of a more immersive, opportunistic internet might look like one day.


From her earliest memory, Veronica recalls having a distinct passion for art and various forms of expression — whether it was through sports, dance or creating things with her hands, voice or brain. From a childhood Disney fandom to attending Cirque du Soleil and Broadway musicals, she especially adored the stylisation behind animation and how it was able to captivate audiences — even when the characters weren’t real. 

Her passion for creative storytelling even persuaded her grandparents to bring her to MGM Studios — where she was able to watch creators “writing and drawing on the spot” and witness processes unfolding in real-time. “Once you study characters and emotions, it’s fun to create stories around them,” she says.

Veronica cites Dan Platt, an established character designer and clay artist, as her first mentor. He guided her through tools and techniques of sculptural form, equipping her with the right foundational knowledge to kickstart a career in 3D design.

Today, she’s found a way to marry her earlier passions of storytelling, practical art and 3D rendering. Amongst her latest projects are fine art statues, textiles in fashion and creating digitised iterations of her work through VR, AR and XR experiences.

A modern-day Rorschach

Veronica has often been referred to as a “modern-day Rorschach”. Converging sight and sound, she uses music to induce a flow state and allows it to conduct her creation process, crafting visual iterations of each sound and its vibrational pattern. Depending on her audio of choice, her shapes will differ. 

“Patterns teach people about flow state, passion and what they’re doing,” she says. When detailing her process, she uses the analogy of a surfer riding a wave — when they’re able to “carve out a shape during flow state, they communicate with the water. Their design will be different, depending on how they’re in that space and in that moment.” 

The same can be said for artwork: “If that’s translated in a pure way without any thoughts breaking up the flow state, you’ll get the truest, most real thing in that experience.”

Veronica has tried to practice on her own materials with music, quickly digitising pieces and creating patterns that she feels will be easily transferable within various different industries (such as interior design, digital 3D stories, fine art or collectables). She has also deployed different music genres to guide her work — including tropical house, jungle bass, psytrance, EDM, dubstep and hip-hop.

By applying sound patterns to fashion, she’s seen this as a good way to measure whether her viewers will connect with them as intensely as she has. “You can make rad art and nobody feels anything, but I like to make art that other people have experienced things from — [art] that has made them feel more connected or that has given them something in return.”

Veronica has painted for several DJs at major music festivals (such as Lightning in a Bottle and Envision) — work she cites as some of the greatest experiences in her career thus far. In the last year, virtual concerts have become all the rage — with artists like Ariana Grande, Travis Scott and most recently, the Foo Fighters taking to metaverse stages to reach wider and more diverse audiences. 

In light of this, one of Veronica’s next projects includes dressing DJs and other musicians on stage with clothing that will bear the patterns of their musical genius. However, she’d also like to achieve this within a metaverse space, driving visuals with her motion-capture suit and building 3D assets that can be digitised and live anywhere. Having recently consulted with Nike about carrying her concepts into virtual spaces, she’s learning both digital and practical pipelines — which make her comfortable with art-directing for both physical and digital realms.

Capturing movement

To Veronica, flow state is “harmony between mind, body and energy, as well as mental and physical health.” Her relationship with movement and sound has formed an ideal foundation for her upcoming NFT collection, which features stunning, almost-pearlescent visual stills of her movement in stasis.

To create these images, Veronica works with various motion capture partnerships — one being OptiTrack, a motion-based capture system — and the other being Xsens, a type of wearable equipped with inertia-based sensors. Her motion capture gloves, which capture stunningly nuanced hand movements through the support of machine learning, are produced by the team at Stretchsense

She’s also partnered HTC Vive and Faceware for all of her facial animation work. Additionally, she is a huge supporter of Wacom and Logitech — all while developing visuals with software Maya, Substance, Photoshop, Zbrush, Marvelous Designer and Clo3d.

Building a more inclusive Web3

On the topic of building a more inclusive internet, Veronica has stressed the importance of a digital workforce — particularly in a post-COVID climate. “If you can do anything web or digital-based, your survival rate is better. Especially for countries that don’t have drivable access to studios for sustainability,” she says. By continuing to form and hold new partnerships, she hopes to experience new tech and showcase new ways for it to be used. 

Like many women in tech, Veronica also speaks of being a female minority throughout the course of her career. Having worked in the games industry for over 15 years, she recounts being one of three females in a team of 500 asset developers at Sony and one of 250 women at Electronic Arts. In recent years, she’s been pleased to see more women join the gaming space — an effort she’s always been eager to support.

Going forward, Veronica hopes to see a version of the internet that is open to everyone of all backgrounds, sexual orientations, ages and identities. Moreover, she notes that the very nature of the metaverse is all-inclusive — meaning that it should continue to bridge both practical and digital worlds. In Web3, “tech will continue to evolve and it is at the voice of the people.”

Her advice to other women? “If you want something to change or be different, apply to a team where you feel something is missing.”

What’s next?

Some of Veronica’s most recent work includes a project with leading design firm Gensler, where she’s providing upcoming visual content for buildings with built-in digital media, a large AT&T wall in Dallas’ Discovery District and other upcoming public installation projects. 

She’s also accepted representation from the renowned Patrick Jones Gallery, which is also based in Dallas. Famous contemporary notable artist offerings include Banksy, Andy Warhol, Invader, Arsham, Dicke and more. She’s also designing practical art sculptures and wall art with downloadable digital NFT stories.

She’s also the mastermind behind a series of bespoke 3D renderings — including a character named Bunnii — which she’s brought to life in Unreal Engine’s MetaHuman Creator. She plans to animate her renders with her motion capture gear.

Currently, Veronica is seeking partnerships for art installations for public art, museums, events, conventions or stage performances — whether that’s on a digital or a practical stage. She’s even in the midst of working on an XR stage in Unreal Engine, where she hopes to recreate the same energy she’s sparked at real-world gigs.

To find out more about Veronica’s next projects, be sure to follow her Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn pages for more updates. Her work can also be further explored on her official website.

Qualcomm & Microsoft Partner on “custom AR chips” for Next-gen, Light-weight Glasses

Today during Qualcomm’s CES 2022 press conference, the company announced a partnership with fellow tech-giant Microsoft which will involve “designing custom AR chips and integrating software platforms.”

Qualcomm and Microsoft today strengthened their growing relationship in the XR space with a new partnership announcement. While Microsoft has already relied on Qualcomm to supply the Snapdragon chips found in its latest HoloLens 2 headset, now the companies indicate plans to work more closely together on components for future AR devices.

“This collaboration reflects the next step in both companies’ shared commitment to XR and the metaverse,” said Hugo Swart, vice president of XR at Qualcomm. “Qualcomm Technologies’ core XR strategy has always been delivering the most cutting-edge
technology, purpose-built XR chipsets and enabling the ecosystem with our software platforms and hardware reference designs. We are thrilled to work with Microsoft to help expand and scale the adoption of AR hardware and software across the entire industry.”

Specifically Qualcomm says it will be working with Microsoft on “developing custom AR chips to enable a new wave of power efficient, lightweight AR glasses to deliver rich and immersive experiences.” Further, the announcement reveals plans to integrate Microsoft Mesh—the company’s multi-user XR foundation—with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces XR development tools.

– – — – –

Qualcomm has established itself as an early leader in the growing XR space by leveraging its expertise in smartphone chip design to create the Snapdragon XR1 and XR2 chips which now power most of the leading standalone XR devices.

Ostensibly the company already has an XR3 chip in the works, so it isn’t clear if the “custom chips” that will result from the partnership will basically mean that Microsoft has more say over what XR3 ultimately look like, or it if it will get its own custom chip that’s exclusive for its own uses in devices like HoloLens 3.

The post Qualcomm & Microsoft Partner on “custom AR chips” for Next-gen, Light-weight Glasses appeared first on Road to VR.

Facebook Hosting XR Hackathon Through November 22

Facebook (aka Meta) is hosting an XR Hackathon ending on November 22 with a 1st place prize in one of four categories winning $55,000.

You can find more information on the website for the hackathon and in the official rules.

Entries will be judged on a scale of 1-5 points in each of three sections covering the originality of the idea, the potential for strategic impact on a given product category, and overall implementation. Entrants will need to submit a two minute video with a screencast of the application working and, in the case of those entering work with the “Presence Platform”, there will also need to be a github link and a readme file with instructions alongside an APK to download and test.

According to the rules, applications developed for the hackathon cannot be “derived from software that was or is developed, with the direct or indirect aid of financial or preferential support (including but is not limited to development under or with any contract, commercial license or other funding, investment, or support)” from Meta.

Meta, which rebranded from Facebook last week, is planning to offer prizes ranging from $10,000 up to $55,000 in categories for group AR effects using the company’s Spark AR platform as well as “Mixed Reality, Voice and Hand VR Experiences.”

There’s a total of $700,000 up for grabs in the hackathon and the “Entrant will retain ownership of and all intellectual and industrial property rights to their entry and all Content thereof,” the rules state, with an exception granting Facebook the ability to distribute the software for the purposes of administering the Hackathon itself, as well as “for internal research and development purposes, and for any marketing or promotional purposes.”

XRSI Releases 45-Page VR/AR Privacy Framework Due To Urgent Industry Need

Virtual and augmented reality technologies have continued to improve at a brisk pace, with Facebook’s Oculus Quest VR headset and Nreal’s Light AR glasses setting new standards for mobility and comfort. But as the hardware and software evolve, concern over their user privacy implications is also growing. The nonprofit XR Safety Initiative has released its own solution — the XRSI Privacy Framework — as a “baseline ruleset” to create accountability and trust for extended reality solutions while enhancing data privacy for users.

The XRSI Privacy Framework is urgently needed, the organization suggests, as “individuals and organizations are currently not fully aware of the irreversible and unintended consequences of XR on the digital and physical world.” From headsets to other wearables and related sensors, XR technologies are now capable of gathering untold quantities of user biometric data, potentially including everything from a person’s location and skin color to their eye and hand positions at any given split second. But comprehensive regulations are not in place to protect XR users. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has offered basic guidance, while regional laws such as GDPR, COPPA, and FERPA govern some forms of data in specific locations. But XRSI’s document ties them all together and goes further.

Developed and vetted by a group of academics, attorneys, XR industry executives, engineers, and writers, the Framework is a 45-page document with around 25 pages of regulatory and guideline meat that will be of more interest to lawyers and corporate privacy officers than end users. Broadly speaking, the Framework pushes companies such as Facebook to develop and use immersive technologies responsibly, rather than creating tools to harvest as much information from individuals as possible. It uses the aggregated threat of legal consequences to encourage voluntarily appropriate corporate behavior and is designed to get XR stakeholders to think before acting, rather than holding to the classic “move fast and break things” mantra.

From a user perspective, the XRSI aims to deliver transparent, easy-to-understand solutions that are inclusive while protecting individual privacy by design and default, including modern understandings of identity and respect for the user’s individual characteristics and preferences. It’s also timely: As schooling from home gains traction and XR potentially plays a larger role in remote education, the Framework canvasses existing laws protecting both children under 13 and older students against discrimination and inappropriate record keeping, helping XR companies understand their existing and future legal obligations in the scholastic arena.

The XRSI is working with liaison organizations — including Open AR Cloud, the University of Michigan, and the Georgia Institute of Technology — to further develop the Framework beyond its current “version 1.0” status and get it adopted and enforced. While the group credits individual experts from organizations like HERE and Niantic with helping to craft the document, it’s unclear at this stage whether XR platform developers such as Facebook, HTC, or Valve will support the initiative.

This post by Jeremy Horwitz original appeared on VentureBeat.

3D for the Enterprise: The Inherent Effectiveness of XR

VRFocus Creators

A lot of thought gets put into how businesses might enable employees to achieve peak performance. A key aspect that often gets overlooked is the basic medium of our tools and interactions. Going back to first principles, it’s important to take into account that humans are fundamentally driven to operate in a three-dimensional world. The way we experience, interact, and create is just more natural and intuitive in 3D.


Yet in the era of computing, much of our working life occurs in 2D, changing our daily workflow into a constant shift between 2D and 3D. We’ve become accustomed to staring at flat screens for everything from data to presentations to videoconference calls, but it’s not always the most impactful means. 2D computing is a distinct compromise and we’ve resigned ourselves to settle for it.

We now have the opportunity to return to a more natural and intuitive way to work – through virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality (cumulatively “XR”). The rise of XR technologies is rooted in its fundamental usefulness and efficiency to train, teach, design, collaborate, share, and more.

Like nearly every emerging technology, XR takes time for advancement and adoption, but we are now entering an inflection point for growth. In particular, the enterprise segment of XR hardware and software has traction and is forecasted to grow to over $60 billion by 2023, according to IDC and ARtillery Intelligence. Moreover, COVID-19 is clearly having a substantial impact on the mindset and tools for working collaboratively, acting as an accelerant for these technologies.

View from an Investor

Through VIVE X, the accelerator arm of HTC Vive, we have a unique lens into the market. We started our early-stage investment business four years ago, focused on companies within the realm of XR, as well as the related areas of AI and 5G. Today we are the most active investor in XR, with more than 100 deals in 6 global locations. To date, the value of our investments has nearly doubled.

Vive Ecosystem Conference

We’re seeing that many companies advancing enterprise XR today are focused on horizontal applications that most greatly benefit from a 3D environment: training, design, collaboration, events, analytics, and visualization are examples. The vertical industries that these apply to are endless, including architecture, automotive and transportation, healthcare, oil and gas, and technology. Today they are largely individual applications, and in the future you’ll see more integrated offerings and comprehensive platforms.

The ROI for companies utilizing XR technology is compelling. In many use cases, we’ve seen 5-to-10X reduction in training costs per employee, 30%+ increases in employee satisfaction with training, 25-80% efficiency improvements in various areas of operations, and up to 14X time-to-market improvements in complex use cases.

While these horizontals are proving to be the first to broadly take hold in enterprise, we are already seeing new applications starting to take hold in high value verticals like healthcare and industrial uses. The value is just too great for it not to – from efficiency and effectiveness, to engagement and ROI. The fundamentals of XR offer an important tool for growth and competitive advantage for those who see the inevitable path forward.

Valve Releases Beta OpenVR Support For Unity’s New XR Plugin System

Valve released a beta OpenVR package for the Unity game engine’s new XR plugin system. Unity is used to make the majority of VR games.

When the Unity 2019.3 publicly shipped in January, the engine deprecated support for the built-in VR support, including for OpenVR– Valve’s application programming interface (API) for SteamVR. This was replaced by a new modular XR Plugin system.

Under the new system, Unity ‘officially’ worked with 7 XR platforms: Apple’s ARKit, Google’s ARCore, Microsoft’s HoloLens & WMR, Magic Leap, Oculus, and PlayStation VR. Support for these platforms can be enabled with a few clicks. These platforms are “fully supported” by Unity, and the company is “directly” working with them on “deep platform integration, improvements to our engine, and optimizations to our XR tech stack for the platform”.

However, the engine also allows third parties to write their own plugins. At the time, Unity stated that Valve was working on such a plugin for OpenVR, which would be shipped separately from Unity by Valve.

That is what has now been released, and it’s available on Valve’s GitHub.

Input System Not Yet Complete

Valve describes this initial version as a Beta, and warns that developers should not release titles with it just yet.

Currently, the input system works by mapping specific buttons on a simulated per-controller basis. Games developed with this plugin cannot yet create OpenVR Actions.

That means players won’t be able to use SteamVR’s built in system for remapping controls. It also means developers don’t yet have access to the SteamVR Skeletal Input API.

Valve plans to rectify these issues in future versions. For now, Valve offers the following workaround:

We’ve created custom legacy bindings and hooked them up to the Unity Input System to give you individual access to as many controller sensors as possible. You can modify these bindings while in play mode by going to the SteamVR interface, Menu, Settings, Controllers, Manage Controller Bindings, and Custom. These are saved to a folder in your project at Assets/StreamingAssets/SteamVR/[bindings].json. We’ve included default bindings for a variety of supported SteamVR controllers.

If you would like your controller included in this default list please create an issue on our github with your preferred legacy binding and unity input system layout.


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