At the recent Augmented World Expo, I sat down with Canadian polymath Naomi Assaraf (or @NAssaraf as she’s known to her many Twitter followers) to chat about her wildly diverse interests and passions. Entrepreneur, Coder, Marketer, Game Dev, Speaker, Writer, Athlete, and (as I found out) aspiring Musician — Naomi is rapidly becoming a go-to person for perspectives on inclusion, diversity, and our artificially intelligent future.
Here’s a brief view into our conversation at #AWE2018
Naomi Assaraf — Exclusively Inclusive
from Augmented World Expo (AWE)
Silicon Valley, USA
[ M. Pell ] What are you up to these days Naomi?
[ Naomi ] I’m the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of cloudHQ, an email productivity company that creates Gmail add-ons and Chrome extensions. Currently, we have over 40 email productivity tools in our library suite, and just over 1 million users.
You are also designing and coding a VR game by yourself, right?
Yes, I code in C# for fun and want to create a VR game for the Oculus Rift to help people practice the trumpet.
I’ll give you the backstory on that. I’m making my own indie game because I’m actually a terrible musician, but all my friends are very professional. I really want to practice with them, but I can’t hang. So, I am creating a game where I can practice right along with the world’s best musicians in virtual reality, mess-up as much as I want until I get better, and then I can finally practice with my talented friends.
Sounds fun. How long until we can play along, too?
After working on this for a year already, I was hoping to be done within a few months. I still have to finish up the rendering of the live motion capture of the brilliant musicians you can play with. Have several more to do. Takes awhile since I’m only doing the development at night and on weekends.
Another thing keeping you busy is your involvement with an org to foster more inclusion in the AR/VR industry, correct?
Yes, I’m part of a group called ARVR Women and Allies. We share, connect, and learn about the Augmented and Virtual Reality industry together to help form a more accepting and proactive community. We believe in uplifting women of all varieties and skillsets.
How is inclusion talked about within the AR/VR industry?
Sometimes it isn’t, which is part of why I’m in this group. The onus is on all of us to talk with other people about having a more open mind; otherwise, we forget about inclusion and diversity when designing a game. We can’t have just one viewpoint — that doesn’t work for everybody. We need to keep bringing it up and gently reminding people, “Hey, there are other viewpoints. Let’s bring those in and make this game really amazing.”
Do those conversations go over well?
Depends. Sometimes I hear things like, “Oh, I just forgot. That is a great viewpoint.” Not uncommon. As a Dev myself, I realize you can sometimes get into your own world, but it’s no excuse going forward. People have got to start thinking about being inclusive by frame one.
What’s your advice for people to keep this top of mind?
Well, there’s something that’s really easy to do, which is have a team that’s made up of a lot of different kinds of people; I’m not just talking about people in your city that look different than you, but needing to go a little bit more global. Find somebody who lives in a different country, far away, and incorporate their viewpoint into your game before you even start coding it. That’s really key.
Could you imagine doing a matchmaking type service to encourage finding diverse perspectives and help people be more inclusive?
I could. That would be really exceptional for this group because we’re trying to bring women and their allies together in the AR/VR community.
It also gets at another part of being inclusive, which is bringing in different kinds of people, not just based on race or gender, but how they think. Diverse perspectives. Maybe we should try to include somebody who has ADHD, autism, and other kinds of different thinkers. Think about what can they bring because they have different perspectives. It’s really interesting to see how they can contribute to your experience.
Any closing thoughts?
Get diverse viewpoints before building frame one! It’ll help your game appeal to far more people, giving you higher downloads, repeat users, and increased sales.
Thank you Naomi!
Join Naomi here in supporting inclusion for under-represented groups as creators for our next computing platform — AR and VR.
ARVR Women And Allies
AR/VR Women + Allies welcomes you to SHARE, CONNECT and LEARN about the Augmented and Virtual Reality industry in an…
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Bold, insightful and uncompromising, M. Pell is recognized as a thought leader in the field of Holographic Visualization and Smart Information. Checkout his book “Envisioning Holograms”.
Learn more about M. Pell at http://www.futuristic.com