Virtual realities

Based on the comments to yesterday’s post, it seems that Oculus was faced with a situation where practically no women were interested in developing for Virtual Reality. And that tells me something odd is going on here.

Among my female students (all of whom program computers), most are highly interested in V.R., and are eager to develop for it. I also know quite a few women who are currently working in V.R.

In one of the most exciting developments in the entire field, one of my colleagues at NYU is working on solving the problem of true spatially correct real-time audio reconstruction for V.R. About half of the grad students working with her on this are women.

As most of you know, V.R. itself is far from new — although its viability as a consumer product is indeed new. For over twenty years I have known female colleagues who have done research in and developed for virtual reality, including quite a few grad students.

So it seems we are confronting virtual realities of a different kind. On the one hand I have known, for many years, women who are highly skilled programmers who are also extremely interested in V.R. and have been working on it. On the other hand, when Oculus holds a conference, these women cannot be found.

I don’t know the answer to this mystery, but it might help to explain the tone of my previous two posts on this subject.

It also might help explain why I think Palmer Luckey can be a pivotal figure. The female V.R. researchers and developers are indeed out there. But many of them might be looking for a sign that they are welcome.

Unlike men, who never need to deal with this issue — and therefore can remain blissfully unaware that there even is an issue — I suspect many women in high technology know very well what happens when they show up somewhere they were not invited.

One Response to “Virtual realities”

  1. Alec says:

    When recently visiting a visual effects company, I asked where I could find the restroom. One of my hosts pointed to a nearby door. I looked confused, and he explained, “It says ‘Ladies’, but there aren’t any ladies in a VFX company.”

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