When Worlds Collide: Challenges and Opportunities in Virtual Reality
Keywords:virtual reality, embodiment, gender, race, sexuality
The field of virtual reality (VR) has advanced significantly in the last decade. VR technologies are powerful in that they create a uniquely immersive virtual experience that can amplify both positive and negative human behaviors. It is important to consider the design decisions behind VR technology to leverage VR’s capabilities to promote social and gender equality rather than hinder it. Two main challenges have been identified in modern day VR technology: first, immersive VR applications promote harassment towards women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ+ individuals, and second, VR hardware is better suited to males than females. Analyzing VR technology design using sex and gender analysis can significantly improve VR experiences for a wider audience, enabling us to leverage VR’s uniquely immersive capabilities to promote social equality. Two gendered innovations can address these challenges: first, VR applications can help develop empathy towards traditionally marginalized communities, and second VR headsets can be more sex-inclusive.