Tech themed Music transition
[00:00 – 00:28] Viv
What do you get when you combine a futurist, disability advocate, entrepreneur and the courage to challenge the metaverse? That’s right Gisele Mota! We’re speaking with Giselle, creator of NFTY collective, a project on a mission to bring disability inclusion into web 3 and the metaverse. You will also hear exactly what the heck the metaverse is and why it’s important we build with inclusion and accessibility from the start.
[00:28 – 00:31] Giselle
Thank you so much, it’s so good to be with you talking.
[00:31 – 00:46] Viv
At the start of this conversation I always like to ask people because this will be a video podcast as well to do a visual description of themselves, would you mind doing a visual description of your beautiful self in the setting that you’re in?
[00:46 – 01:10] Giselle
Thank you. I’m sitting in my living room in an apartment in New York City. I have my art on the wall, a little couch, a lamp and I am sitting in a chair. I’m wearing a green dark green cardigan a white shirt my hair is brown and black and I have it is long to cut in my shoulder length I’m a black woman or a woman of color and I have big green glasses on
[01:10 – 01:29] Viv
And those glasses are amazing I must say. I would love to pass it over to you to start with. You’ve spoken about how embracing your identity has really empowered you to sort of enter this new chapter of your career and can you speak to that a bit and share that Journey with us?
[01:29 – 03:33] Giselle
Well I do a lot of different things so in my career on my full-time work is that I’m a head of product and or chief of product inclusion at this company that deals with like human capital management technology and then I have my own project called NFTY Collective which is all about bringing people with disabilities into web 3 and the metaverse. So really I came to a point where before I had been focusing a lot on the future of work per se so how do organizations use technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics and all these different types of tools to solve problems and to think about what the future looks like when it comes to work. It was awesome to be able to do those things but for me the past couple of years and a little bit more the pandemic, the racial and social injustices that were happening around the world like it really made me stop and think about how I was using my time and what I was doing with my impact. As an afro-latina I’m a woman of color you know I have an unseen disability of Dyslexia and I was really impacted by everything that was happening around the world and I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to channel my energy into something positive instead of sitting in frustration. So it led me to take forward actions and just be proactive. So I stopped just looking at the future of work and I started thinking about the future of technology and the future of work and is it inclusive are we bringing people along with us and I did every effort I could so basically the role that I have in my full-time work is a role that was created because I was proactive and it never was a role that existed before my company in an organization of over 60 000 Global employees and now I’m heading up something that’s thinking about inclusion in our products because I care about it. Now I’m doing this project of my own called NFTY Collective because I really don’t want to see people left out of emerging technology, especially people with disabilities.
[03:33 – 03:52] Viv
It’s so wonderful to sort of lead with that passion and be able to bring to the table that lived experience that you have, you know how do you explain to someone who doesn’t have any understanding of blockchains or web3 or the metaverse what this sort of like creative space could do for the world and how it could change their world for the for the better?
[03:55 – 05:11] Giselle
It’s very likened to we’ve been borrowing concepts so we’ve been borrowing concepts from games and think of your favorite animation movie that you’ve probably seen like maybe Avatar is up there for me that concept has morphed into other use cases and applications so now people are reimagining they’re like okay if kids can play and animations can happen on movies and kids can play in these like Virtual Worlds then why can’t we gather together and socialize in places like that and why can’t we learn a new skill in an environment like that that’s virtual or why can’t we actually work on a project together in an environment like that? So all of that is what we’re calling the metaverse and the metaverse is this place of like play and discovery and imagination it is using things like data and artificial intelligence and augmented reality and virtual realities behind the scenes so that’s all the tech that goes behind it but the user experience at the end is all about like imagining you know like it’s like a game it’s like animations but for other cases that we want to use in the real world. So you can go to a virtual concert and watch somebody in their avatar and you could be an avatar and enjoy that experience you know so yeah that’s what it is that’s what the metaverse is.
[05:12 – 05:37] Viv
Amazing that you mentioned the gaming industry because I know that there’s been a lot of work done about the accessibility and inclusion of the gaming industry and it’s made a huge amount of waves recently and I I wonder is there is there a conversation or a debate around the accessibility and inclusion of the metaverse and and the critical importance of that?
[05:38 – 07:06] Giselle
Yes absolutely. So right now as it stands the metaverse is not the most inclusive it is not the most accessible for people with disabilities either in fact when you do go into a lot of these experiences at the beginning it was all around like VR goggles that you have to put on this heavy set on your on your head and some people have motion sickness some people have eye tracking issues where you’ll you won’t be able to enjoy that experience or perhaps you may be low vision or completely blind and how can you enjoy something that’s only fixed on a mechanism of a headset right. So that was a stumbling block and in fact some legislation has come down the line in certain experiences now that you have to if you’re going to create experiences like that on the metaverse and things you have to make it inclusive outside of a VR set so that many people can enjoy it. So today you can get on the computer you can get on a mobile device and still hop into one of these experiences without having to have an expensive and maybe uncomfortable or inaccessible VR set. So yeah it’s also not inclusive in the fact that when you play a lot of these games your avatar is not really someone that if you look like someone who has no arms no legs you’re in a wheelchair you use a walking device the way that these systems work for avatar creation they don’t always recognize that that’s a human being or that’s that’s a person so it won’t track that oh that’s that’s a human in a in a device in a wheelchair it’ll be like unrecognizable.
[07:06 – 07:22] Viv
A part of the accessibility is the affordability of things you know. Yes, so much of the technology needed for these sorts of experiences is expensive. Is it sort of moving toward a point where you can access the metaverse without these sorts of things?
[07:23 – 08:16] Giselle
In fact the only things the only platform providers that we are partnering up with right now have to have we’re we’re saying you cannot just be based on a headset to have the experience so for us it’s like you can literally use your laptop you can use your navigation keys to get around or if you plug in for example an Xbox controller that is adaptable or accessible right for people with different disabilities you can use that to get around or you know there’s many different ways in which we’ll we’ll think about that for the VR – virtual reality it’s when you want to feel like you’re having a first person experience that’s more immersive where you feel like you are literally in that space and you can feel like when you’re looking around your avatar is looking around it’s jumping you’re jumping like that is the experience so that is something that a lot of VR providers the technology providers are like reimagining how they can bring down the price point so it’s truly accessible so there’s a lot of imagination that needs to be done there
[08:16 – 08:27] Viv
From where it’s at now you sort of speak like it currently isn’t accessible, how has it gotten to that point of the design phase and these things are only registering now?
[08:27 – 09:12] Giselle
It should be it should be for us and it should be by us right so like anything that you’re going to be making you should definitely include all sorts of different people who could be your end user in the experience when you’re first starting to design it so I would think I would assume that there was not a lot of people at the table who had disabilities when people were formulating it would be a good idea to have some virtual world and create these spaces because they weren’t really thinking. So now it’s catching up to where others like myself are saying wait a minute we need to like make this more accessible and or like me you’re saying you know what it’s not accessible so I’m gonna create opportunities where they where they are more accessible and so we’re having like rebellious people like me step in and try to change things right now.
[08:27 – 09:31] Viv
It’s brilliant you Rebel! How do you think we go about policing the Integrity of that intentional commitment to inclusion and accessibility just knowing that the landscape of technology and accessibility is constantly shifting and changing?
[09:31 – 10:17] Giselle
For sure, I think one of the ways that we’re starting to see is that there are associations starting to form and legislation starting to come down the pipeline to legislate and regulate. If you are having some sort of technology experience you have to consider accessibility, you have to consider it all kinds of inclusion. So you might have a person of color that has experienced this or people of different gender representations or people who speak different languages or live in different parts of the world you can’t just create something with one you know one scope in mind anymore including people with disabilities you have to think about that so that’s happening now there’s many groups of people that are forming these coalitions and associations and form drafting out laws so that’s promising.
[10:17 – 10:28] Viv
And I suppose that leads beautifully to the work that you’re doing with the NFTY Collective. What exactly is your sole mission with this incredible initiative?
[10:28 – 11:25] Giselle
The mission is to highlight amazing people right and to give them the opportunity and I’m talking about people with disabilities and to give them the opportunity to show up as they are in web 3 and metaverse spaces and so for me it’s a space like we’ve been discussing that lacks, severely lacks, diversity it severely lacks representation of people with disabilities. So we’re working with people from around the world and we created avatars in their likeness and we’re using those avatars through we provide them as an NFT to some of them a non-fungible token where they can like create value with that and sell it or trade it if they want to they are now we’re making games out of these avatars so that they could show up in experiences. We’re doing a lot of different things but it’s again I’m being rebellious and just interjecting people into a space that has not included them and that’s what that’s what I’m up to that’s what I have to say.
[11:25 – 11:39] Viv
Although it’s a rebellion it’s a celebration. What is it opening up you know when people step into a space like a metaverse and they have an avatar that represents themselves. What are the other doors that open all of a sudden?
[11:39 – 13:06] Giselle
A lot of times I’ve spoken with people with disabilities and we started very organically we started to reach out to people and ask them simply would you like us to create an avatar of you and we explained to them what we were doing and they wanted to be a part of it and when they did in many cases we would have people literally start crying or literally just express how honored and touched that they were that somebody thought of them enough to not leave them out of something that was coming out yet again that was gonna leave them out. It’s important to yeah to make representation and I feel like that’s opening a door to make it more normal and to to shed a light on that hey when you design any technology you should be including people with disabilities and I don’t want to get emotional here but what I am aiming to do is also give people a chance to see themselves in an experience that’s so cool and so forward thinking that they could say I was a part of that during my lifetime I was a part of this experience and so those are the kind of doors that open up as well. Now we are being invited to create games and um inclusive art galleries with some of our characters and learning and development experiences for organizations and some people have asked us can we use your characters to you know add on to our products so that we can if we do have a little character in our product somewhere it can be someone with a disability so there’s so many different like opportunities that are coming up and the sky’s the limit.
[13:07 – 13:17] Viv
Being so closely and emotionally involved in this project what do you think about the risks involved in this space and in bringing these avatars into a space?
[13:17 – 14:17] Giselle
Yeah it’s funny, I’m guarding this project because of risks. I’m guarding it, I’m being careful with it I’m not opening it to just everybody and anybody can do anything in fact even people with disabilities have sometimes approached from an angle that is not mission-centric to what I’m trying to do and I’ve said you know I’ve had to turn some people away for wanting to kind of even look at this as a way to monetize or to do something where it’s not the mission-center that I want to focus on so all sides there’s risk from all sides, there’s risks from the people in the community themselves who are you know that that might not align to the vision that I have and what we’re trying to do and then there’s risk to other people who have approached me about funding opportunities but they only see it as like they do their math they’re like wait there’s one billion people in the world with disabilities and if you do this then we can do and I’m like like so there’s a lot of from the angle of disabilities there’s a risk. From the angle of you know technologies and what they’re trying to do in a space of the metaverse as well and how if they don’t put guard rails to your point that you were saying before that they people can be exploited people can be discriminated against like there’s a lot of things that can happen so I’m being very careful and very calculated with who we partner with what we collaborate on and how we’re using these characters. So really good question you ask some really good questions by the way you must do this often?
[14:17 – 15:08] Viv
I just got a really great guest. I’m so excited by the friendship! and is there a future for a NFTY Avatar that would if someone is low vision or blind is there sort of any future for a character to be sort of based on haptics or or an audio described experience for someone?
[15:08 – 16:28] Giselle
Yes absolutely, that’s on the road map. So we have a couple of things on the map and one of them is using an algorithm and artificial intelligence to turn an image into sound so we next have ways in which we want to get the people who are not able to see their Avatar or experience it in that way visually that they’ll be able to hear a version of what they look like and so it sounds super nerdy but that’s a possibility and we’re exploring that we’re also exploring we’re doing a virtual gallery an art gallery and we’re making sure that it has audio descriptions so that someone who’s low vision or blind can enjoy that experience without having to see it they can still enjoy going to a gallery right. We just did an experience recently through augmented reality where you put up your phone or your mobile device and you scan a QR code and you’re able to see an experience like the story of NFTY Collective what we did with that is that right after the the you know first version of that story it was an audio description version of that story so that people using a screen reader and still have the ability to like pop up the experience on their mobile device could then hear it and enjoy everything else that was happening from the background music, to the descriptions of the characters and all that and we will continue to do that
[16:28 – 17:24] Viv
Wow, it’s like I’m not gonna lie when I when I first heard of the metaverse I was a little scared I just kind of thought oh gosh I’ve seen so many movies and that’s pretty much the only basis for my fear it was movies but hearing this and the excitement of these amazing things it just sounds like like you say like a playful land that we can go and just have all of these really creative experiences. At the end of these conversations we always like to invite our lovely guests to to leave us with a remarkable insight and that could be a piece of advice or a statistic about the metaverse or some sort of words of wisdom that you would like to leave people with that are thought-provoking when it comes to designing tech or experiences for the metaverse. What is something that you would like to leave people with?
[17:24 – 17:40] Giselle
Honestly approach it like we’ve approached anything else with technology if you know if you’re a technology provider think about the people that you’re trying to create for and don’t leave them out and it’s very simple that’s all I want to say as a message don’t leave people out of your experiences
[17:40 – 17:53] Viv
The full interview with our guest can be found in the link below where you press play on this podcast our show notes make sure you subscribe or hit follow to not miss another remarkable insights episode.