Sophia Moshasha is a Metaverse & web3.0 Strategist and a co-host at VR/AR Association podcast. She uses her ability to effectively communicate complex technologies into feasible solutions to create unique opportunities for brands. Most of her projects are creating a significant impact utilizing the just-emerging immersive technologies. Among the most notable projects, she participates in, are the world's first virtual reality charity golf tournament, Virginia Virtual City, The Polys - WebXR Awards & Summits, and XR Women.
It’s no secret that immersive technologies experienced an enormous leap in popularity recently. We also had a chance to work on creating AR/VR apps in the past. So, we couldn't but catch an AR/VR expert and get an update about the peaking industry. In today's tech interview, you'll meet Sophia Moshasha, who will tell you everything about the perspectives for the inexperienced, how to get started, and keep up with the rapidly changing industry. Oh, and the bonus part for reading till the end - learn how to visit 6 parties simultaneously 🤫
Nat: What is happening in the industry at the moment? How are you managing to follow it up?
Sophia: For the XR, immersive technology, and just emerging technologies at large, I've noticed a real uptick of interest in various applications made of virtual technologies across different industry sectors. And I believe this has been coming for some time already. I've been involved in the industry for about six years, where we were trying to educate people on what augmented reality, virtual reality, and extended reality are. Now, not only due to the pandemic but also for other reasons, we're getting more people coming to us and asking about such technology. So there's been a big shift in awareness.
As you know, Facebook's rebranded to Meta as well, and people are already using the social platform. So they're becoming more aware, thinking more of the virtual technologies and correct Metaverse terminology due to that.
“Play a lot of games!”
Nat: Can you tell us more about the state of WEB AR/VR - how mature are those solutions, is it worth investing in such skills for developers?
Sophia: Oh, absolutely. So there are a lot of developers that can grow their skill sets and start to develop for the immersive web. For example, the World Wide Web Consortium (the W3C) actually has an immersive web working group and a community group that meets regularly to get feedback from the community to help develop the standards. Or there's also the Khronos Group that is helping develop graphical standards for the web.
There are a lot of bespoke projects that both small businesses and standalone developers are working on, as well as some of the larger brands. So, there are a lot of exciting things going on in the industry.
I do recommend attending the Polys WebXR; there are five Metaverse watch parties happening across different platforms, where we're going to demonstrate portal links "to" and "from" those watch parties. I'll personally be there both live in the video as well as in Avatar format.
Also, make sure to look at the Polys YouTube channel. There's a lot of content from some of the summits put together, that basically describes all the work that's going on and how to get involved in both business operations and the creator perspective as well.
Nat: There are several ethical concerns regarding AR/VR implementation, such as facial recognition and privacy, mental and social side effects, and reality distortion. Is it still a threat, and what is the progress on measures on that concern?
Sophia: Yes, there is a lot of discussion going on around this topic. I think it's good that we're starting to recognize some of the potential complications that could happen in our future. So we can kind of get out of some of the concerns beforehand.
Kavya Pearlman, who is leading an organization called XR safety initiative, is working day after day with significant groups that are a part of influencing society to make sure that we keep these ethical concerns at the forefront of creation. There are a lot of cyber hacking issues, things that we are commonly susceptible to today, that can also transfer to these virtual worlds but can somehow be more impactful and even more threatening, perhaps, just because these virtual worlds are known to captivate us more, and we automatically put more trust in those. So, when those things are compromised, the trust in such environments and the people behind them are also compromised.
“Education is great, but the experience is even greater”
Nat: If the company is willing to work in AR/VR, which tools have it focused on in 2022? What would be your recommendations?
Sophia: Many big gaming engines, like Unity, have their own training facilities and platforms that people can get involved with to start learning. And a lot of them are free to the public, at least to start with.
There are a lot of web-based platforms and creation platforms as well, which are becoming more and more popular to democratize the creation of content, things as MetaVRse. It's a great example of a web-based platform. My good friends, Julie Smithson and Alan Smithson, founded that company.
You can also look up the web XR device API, which is coming from the W3C. I can't stress enough to watch the Polys or at least go back to some of the content repositories because there are many resources for people looking to get started.
And I would say, don't get threatened by the state of technology in the industry. A lot of us didn't come from technical backgrounds. A lot of us didn't come from immersive technology backgrounds since it's very new. Universities are just starting to incorporate programs and specific certifications for immersive technologies. A lot of us are self-taught through collaboration through research, staying in touch with the community, and just learning about what's going on in the community. Those are the best ways to get involved and get started.
“Passion is where it starts, and that will ultimately lead to success”
Nat: You know, we are living and breathing the Saas industry, so I have to ask. How AR/VR can be turned or immersed into Saas?
Sophia: There are different products that different companies are building to turn this technology into more of what SaaS is offering. Either where they would help create content and programming for the client or to set up a platform and libraries where potential clients or individuals can do it themselves. So there are a lot of opportunities out there; it's democratizing content creation.
Once again, unless the technology is super complex and development-heavy, there are a lot of opportunities for individuals and companies to get in and do it themselves. For example, Adobe Aero is doing it. And it's making the cost of creation lower because now there are available asset libraries.
Nat: If you met 10 years old Sophia, what would you tell her?
Sophia: I would say play a lot of games. Because that's where it's going, and I would say definitely, education is great, but the experience is even greater. Whatever you know, you can do to get your hands-on experience, even if that is through gaming (specifically, it works for the AR/VR industry). Those kids are so tech-savvy and incredible in their games, and they're creating their own careers for themselves through that. And I generally think that if you can have more technical skills, even if you're looking to be on the business side of the BD marketing side of things, really grasp the technologies you're interested in. It will be very helpful.
I'm not a developer myself, but I took the Unity one-on-one courses. I'm researching as much as possible - the tech side of crypto, web 3.0, and all these different emerging technologies, because that's the only way for me to be able to better represent those technologies to end-users and clients.
For our industry, gaming is a great start. People are developing skills needed to transition to a real career through gaming. I work with people that are game developers, and they never thought they would have a career outside of gaming and creating games. And now, many of them are being hired for the top hires in companies looking to create immersive experiences. It is a hot commodity right now.
You can definitely turn your passions into a career, I would say, across any field. I believe that passion is where it starts, and that will ultimately lead to success.
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Your biggest regret?
I would love to finish my MBA. I've just been super busy with everything at that time. But education is always great because nobody can ever take that away from you.
Your best investment?
Besides my home? :)
The best investment in my life is spending the time to participate in the community to build those deep-rooted relationships by just offering value to my friends in the community, both personal and professional. You need the support of your community, professional network, friends, and family. And there's enough to keep; it's a lot of work. But it is worth it.
Virtual or real experience?
It's funny because I actually realized that I placed some importance on my virtual presence, almost just as much as I do on my physical presence.
One reason is because of the pandemic, and I didn't get out to see people often.
And the other is because I've just been spending so much time in these virtual worlds.
For example, during New Year, I was invited to a party. So, I was there physically with friends that I wanted to be with, drinking champagne, and it was a lot of fun. However, I had five different New Year's parties in the metaverse that I wanted to attend as well.
So, I made sure I brought my headset. And at some point during the night, people saw me lock myself in my room to join these parties and meet my friends in some of these other parties in virtual reality. That was that kind of "A-ha!" moment over the years where I realized that I do place importance on my virtual presence. So, I definitely love both of them.