The responsible development of XR technology requires a diverse community of voices to help build it. To celebrate the limitless number of perspectives in the XR industry, the XR Association sat down with Oszie Tarula, Co-Founder of Hola Metaverso, and a board member of Data 4 Good.
Below is an excerpt of the interview with Tarula, which has been edited slightly for brevity and clarity.
1. What’s your XR story? How did you get started in this space?
I was working at UCLA as a digital media director and felt like I was watching Web3 pass me by. I had been following Bitcoin since around 2012, too, and last year was the year I finally decided: I couldn’t miss out on this wave of new technologies and the opportunity to be fully immersed in it.
So I left UCLA. At the same time, I also became a part of a Web3 community on Twitter. In the group, I connected with a lot of people in Latin America, who were talking about blockchain, talking about AR and all the different technologies that are part of Web3. It was then I decided to do what I was doing at UCLA, which was producing events. Our community was mainly online, so I thought, what if I get this community together in person?
We’ve had events in LA, in Bogota and we’re having one in Puerto Rico. In most of these cases, we’re featuring AR and VR artists. We’re also trying to educate people and make others aware of these new technologies. So that’s one of the main ways I got involved in this space, through hosting events and immersing myself in the Web3 community.
2. What is Hola Metaverso? What type of events do you put on?
There are two types of events that we’re producing. The first is through meetups. We meet up with local community members around LATAM from Los Angeles to Mexico City and Medecillin to keep up with the community and link with members, and to attract new people who can help us produce our other types of events.
[Our second type of events] are more immersive with AR and VR demonstrations, NFT galleries, presentations and guest panels. We had an event in LA and then we had one in Bogota, and at each one, we’re changing and adopting [new technologies] because they’re experiences. They’re not necessarily the same, but the results are. It’s where people come to connect.
Our tagline is “Connect, learn and build.” The building kind of takes off on its own from the partnerships people make right at our events. We’ve seen venture capitalists connect, we’ve seen artists connect, and we’ve seen the joy they get from being able to find a developer or someone helping them with legal work.
3. Why do you think it’s important to have this community and to build this platform for people with diverse voices?
It’s about inclusivity and accessibility. These types of technologies raise the level of accessibility for everyone. So it’s a matter now of adoption and making people aware. [It’s also important to] give them opportunities to participate.
You pretty much know who’s getting the majority of investments [in the industry], it’s a typical stat. I think within our own community, we have to do something about it. We’re in a position where we have to take action. We know that there’s talent [in the Latino community], we know that the brains are there, [the industry] just has to be more inclusive about it.
4. What inspires you to remain in this space and at the forefront of this kind of technology?
I migrated from Mexico. So for me, it’s a matter of helping as many people as I can by making more people aware of technology in general, especially these new technologies that have changed my life. I feel a sense of duty to go back and tell other people about it.
I came from a place where there was no technology. And the opportunities that have been given to me, I think that’s what shapes my motivation. Interacting in a metaverse space right now, it’s another level of access I would say, and it becomes about accessibility and inclusivity because once you have been included, then you feel a sense of, you know, what it was like before. So I think that’s what shaped me to do this.
5. What career advice do you have for someone who is just starting off?
I would say, learn as much as you can, and find your interest. The sooner you find that, and the sooner you nurture that, it’s going to be powerful.
I also think, start building your network. If you take it really seriously, not just adding people on LinkedIn, or Twitter, but actually, nurturing that network, sending them a message out of the blue. I think the sooner you do that, the younger you do that, more opportunities will come to you.
6. At XRA we like to say that the XR industry has a limitless future. What does that mean to you?
I have to fall back on technology because, you know, AR, VR, XR, MR, they’re all part of the technology. They’re all growing as technology evolves. They’re going to continue growing and evolving into greater things.
7. Are there any lessons we need to be aware of from immersive technology now that you think that people aren’t really considering?
One thing I would say is accessibility because a lot of these new technologies require hardware or tools. So I think accessibility is a huge part of it. I would say that’s one of the biggest things as it grows, right? How do we provide a diverse community access to these tools, the software, the development tools, and then the actual physical hardware tools that are needed for these things. It’s two-fold. Especially with hardware, you need access to that.
How many people have access to an Oculus, in Latin America? Probably a lot less than here in the U.S.
8. What does the XR industry need? Are there things to be applauded so far? Things that have worked?
Letting people know about these technologies is huge. Because it’s about motivating people, and showing them the possibilities. So that’s one and of course, that’s all tied to education. So education and awareness are huge, because that by itself, will motivate people to at least find out more about it, to connect with your Twitter account, to start watching YouTube videos.
But then, more action. Provide opportunities. Of course, you can’t provide opportunities for everyone. But I think there are ways where you can provide opportunities, whether you make collaborations with someone, attend events, support community events, or provide scholarships for new gear, scholarships for education.
I think now if you really want to be inclusive, do more. The more diverse your view is, the better your product is. No matter what you’re doing, you would be helping yourself as well. Open the doors to people of color, to women, open the doors to as many people as you can, because ultimately, that’s going to help you as well.