Rene – Hi! Welcome to Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of metaverse. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and as you can see today, we're actually talking about the metaverse inside of the metaverse. We are right here in Meta’s horizon workroom in the beautiful XR bootcamp workroom. Well and today we're going to talk about a very important topic near and dear to my heart. We're going to talk about XR metaverse education and diversity and for this I'm honored to welcome our special expert guest today, Rahel Demant. Hi Rahel and welcome to the show. How are you today?

Rahel - Hi Rene! I'm fine thanks, I hope you too. I'm very excited to be here it's my first interview inside the metaverse. So thank you very much for making this possible Rene and yeah I'm looking forward to talking with you about everything about metaverse education and diversity and inclusion.

Rene – Awesome! Let's do a quick high-five here. There we go. Yes, all right now we are in the right mood folks. So Rahel, before we start tell us a little bit about your background real quick about like your metaverse game development and you know XR background in the end, of course.

Rahel – Yeah, for me my XR and metaverse, virtual reality journey started in 2016. Already quite some time ago when I joined Crytek and Crytek has lot of amazing video games but also some virtual reality games which was I was allowed and able to try there. Like the climb and I was so fascinated from climbing up virtual mountains and it was just so beautiful and amazing to insert myself into these virtual worlds which had been so new to me back then and yeah I was just learning more and more about it and also managing a project for the virtual reality games and that basically made me and allowed me to build my network in the space and to meet my current co-founder. That's basically my background. It was basically by coincidence by jumping into this company and then yeah!

Rene – I love it, I love it. It's a very diverse background and really driven by passion and you know really having a motivation for the technology so I love this right. I mean this is really how you move things forward, is you gotta love it, right, like you cannot be forced into this kind of stuff. Let's dive into our today's topic. Let's start with a simple but well it's also a complex question with the state of the art these days. So what is the metaverse for you and where do you see the potential.

Rahel - Metaverse is such a big word for me. It's describing this vision of what we've basically seen in ready player one of this huge virtual world where we can play, where we can do car races without putting anyone else in danger and have like these crazy experiences, meet new friends, and just have a completely different world. Imagine free and full of fantasy and immunity, imagination so it basically to me describes a vision of something, what's possible in the future, I guess, far far away in the future because of course we are near that and I think that's also the difficult point because if you are asking me what is the metaverse today, I guess it's only yeah, I mean it's virtual reality games. You can buy the oculus quest, you can play virtual reality games but unfortunately it's never what advertisements promise to us right and I think also for people who are notworking in the space sometimes it's so hard to distinguish actually because there's features which are actually in these advertisement videos, there's features which you can actually do and experience but then there's also like all these like holographic hologram experiences depicted and you're trying to… you're basically buying a headset or like looking at the ad and think wow that's so cool. I want to be a hologram at the next concert or whatever is just picture there and then you're buying it and then it's not at all like that because it's just not possible yet. So I think the metaverse is really this vision which kind of like comes through all these different advertisement videos we are seeing and what we're kind of imagining what's possible but when you're looking at the metaverse today it's a whole different story.

Rene – Yeah, yes fully agree as like you know, there's this vision. This kind of broad understanding, right? Like this is the new immersive internet basically and then today we have this more I would say like exactly like you said like more and narrow kind of understanding where some people are just using it for a new term instead of VR or like a replacement for the XR term or whatever but it's much more than that and yeah we'll see how that turns out. I mean in the end we need the true vision of the metaverse right, the full interoperability with one metaverse but right now what we see is of course just the beginning, but it helps us to imagine things so it makes us more creative and it's cool to fantasize around it and like hopefully like explore what it could be exactly and we can define it and we can drive it and we can you know make an impact potentially and I know you actually also enable folks to make an input this in its space right like together with a Ferhan Ozkan your co-founder, you're running the XR bootcamp organization. So tell us a little bit what you are doing there and what it is.

Rahel – Yeah, so basically I mean we were both working at Crytek back then and we were starting via first and university initiative and what we were seeing back then of course the headsets were super expensive right and you definitely always needed a pc like a gaming pc which was also super expensive. So educating people in the space was a huge problem because not all universities have the funds to basically spend seven thousand euros per student to enable them to learn right and but the companies on the other hand they are always saying, hey, where are the talents? Where is the developer we need to hire them because we want to create cool XR virtual reality experiences? So what we said was, okay, tech companies, what can we do together and we got a huge amount of donations, actually which was amazing we donated hundreds of headsets to different universities really all around the world. So with we are first today we have 52 virtual reality labs and we supported of course the universities with our knowledge, with the equipment to really start educating more and more XR developers but on the other hand what we were also seeing is that universities are of course if you're like a student at universities you take three to five years to graduate and it's sometimes it's just too much time you need to be available to the market and the companies are always saying okay where are these talents now that we can hire so they still just lag right? Like there's still this lack of getting developers quickly onto the market and that's where coding bootcamps come in so you definitely probably know coding bootcamps which are yeah which are all these training programs where as a newbie can basically join and in three to six months you're learning how to code and can basically become a junior web developer in any company. So what we're seeing back then is that's a really cool concept and it really works. I mean coding bootcamps have like hiring quota from like if you're just like even if you're coming from marketing or a completely unrelated field like in three to six months you have a new job like you really like can start a new job and can join the XR the development field in general in just a few months development learning time so we were saying okay if this works for other development field, why wouldn't that work with VR where we already know so many companies that want to hire XR developers and that's why we started basically XR boot camp and we're also happy to have you on our advisory board to give us advice on how um yeah how we should actually structure this curriculum, how can we make the best connection with hiring companies and yeah and educate developers in the best way possible and really only focus on skills that you may need in the future. So it's a challenge because tech is changing all the time in virtual reality, so we have to constantly update our curriculum and make sure it stays relevant but we're happy that we have amazing people in our team and our teacher trainer, XR trainer team which are currently all the time updating the curriculum and also always making sure that what we are teaching is up to date and make sure that the graduates from our boot camps and from our courses also get the fitting job opportunities afterwards.

Rene - This is awesome and like you said like I'm happy to advise a little bit only but you guys actually don't need much of an advice. I mean you have fantastic trainers, you have fantastic curriculum and yeah great stuff and also like you said, I also love that you're actually, you know, funding and making sure like you know young folks or actually also getting a moment even if they maybe cannot afford such a course, they can be sponsored and I love that you're also enabling this with this kind of scholarship program if you will. So this is awesome.

Rahel – Yeah, we have a very cool actually program now that we're going to announce in June. Meta is actually supporting us with a very big grant to sponsor 15 students from very diverse backgrounds to join XR bootcamp like the whole five months program and yeah I mean I'm inviting anyone who's like basically coming from an under-represented background to apply and to join. It's fully financed, there's zero costs you just basically need a headset and a laptop to join the program and it's a very cool opportunity to take up your chances in the XR world.

Rene - Exactly do that folks! Right Rahel and Ferhan are amazing and like I said the trainers are great. So you won't regret it. It's great and again, it's a great opportunity, right? You mentioned a good point, right, like this scholarship is also for folks that come from a diverse background and under-represented minorities and things like this right? And it's a very important topic because like let's be honest our field of XR or VR or metaverse development and or in general unit development and all software related things, they don't really have a very diverse community, I mean it's changing a little bit but at least my observation throughout the years, well I don't tell you how old I am but I'm here for quite a while already, but yeah unfortunately it's a set state of affairs since many years right like there's a lack of diversity and so, my question for you, since you're also a big advocate of it, how can we change that? How can we make the field more diverse and inclusive?

Rahel - I mean it's an important question. Of course, there's a lot of structural systemic changes which as a small community is just the XR community. We cannot even tackle but there is of-course small things we can do to try to change as much as possible. And yeah I mean, the XR community is basically a gamer computing community and the gamer community as far as I know, as like recent statistics is still like 73 percent white and male obviously so how can we change that? I mean if you're like a woman and you're seeing all these XR experiences, virtual reality games etc, which are mainly done by this white and male community, of course, it's reflected, right, It's not like particularly attractive to women and obviously if something is not being designed for you or even with you which would be much better right then why are you going into a space that has nothing to offer to you? Which is just not interesting to you and that's why it's so important that we are of course, like us enabling education for anyone who would be interested in actually changing the space, in creating their own experiences and to like, making it much more effective for a diverse community and that's what we are trying to do basically with our education programs and also what I always think is super important is there should be and there have to be much more role models because if you're seeing that there's only men successful in the space, also like you're asking yourself okay why I'm going there as a women because apparently women are just not successful in the space, right? So, I think it's much more highlighting successful women which is always a great idea and then if there are not so many of course supporting women who may be successful in the future and also making them showcase themselves and show themselves and yeah and tell positive things about the space. So it doesn't sound so negative and only male focused. So I think there's lots of things we can do about that and yeah I hope that was our scholarship and featuring also our students our graduate stories who are successful in the space and who are who are yeah basically like creating their own cool XR experiences and working at big companies that we can change the industry step by step a little bit more inclusive and diverse.

Rene - We're not going to change it overnight of course, right? So it takes a while but honestly I think you know, it's there's a good, it's a good way we're seeing it's getting better I would say but still a long way to go and programs like you described really help with it. So thank you so much and well thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your insights, that was very much appreciated. I think we all enjoyed it. So thank you so much Rahel!

Rahel - Thank you so much Rene for inviting me. This was fun.

Rene - Let's do the final high five here. Alright, thank you so much! There we go! Look at this, we love virtual high fives. Of course we also love real high fives, but virtual high fives it's just the second best I would say. Well everyone thank you so much for joining us today for yet another episode of meta minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels to hear all about the upcoming episodes and of course visit our website to see all the previous episodes as well as to check out the episodes or sister show called QuBites, your bite-sized pieces of the quantum computing. But until then take care and see you soon in the metaverse! Bye-bye.

For details on Beyond Inclusion Program, Visit here