Virtual and augmented reality pioneer Nonny de la Peña stressed the importance of the immersive industry being inclusive, sustainable and to be more mindful of ethics and interoperability when developing and deploying its technology.

Delivering a keynote IBC Conference session titled How Immersive Tech Will Create New Narratives and Transform Entertainment, Emblematic Group Founder de la Peña showcased the great advances being made in fields such as AI, AR, virtual production and the metaverse.

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Nonny de la Peña (left) with Moderator and Futurist Amelia Kallman

She also spoke at length about how the industry should weigh up the impact that the technology is likely to have on societies.

She stressed the importance of accessibility. “Every city and every county should have a technology board, like we have an education board or a water board because we saw during the Covid shutdown the incredible disparities in terms of who had access to technology. It is a basic right – we all use it and totally need it to get by.”

Sustainability is also an important consideration, she said. De la Peña spoke of the possibility of creating a shared library of virtual production assets. Citing the example of scanning a plaza in Mexico City, she said: “How can we share that so that not everybody has to keep going there and reproducing it for themselves? There are ways that we should all come together so you don’t have to always travel to places anymore.”

There are also growing ethical concerns about how the tech will be used, particularly AI and the possibility of creating deep fakes. De la Peña is also a Program Director of ASU’s Narrative and Emerging Media programme and said that students are required to take an ethics course as part of the curriculum. “We really have to be thinking about diversity, inclusivity and ethics all the time and how this content is being made.”

She also spoke of the importance of interoperability to the success of the metaverse. She noted that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all walled gardens. “I think this idea of being able to take your identity from place to place is going to be crucial. Your material should be able to go, whatever metaverse you want to occupy.”

Offering her advice to anybody working in the field of immersive tech, de la Peña concluded: “You have to have a short memory for pain. Every time they say ‘No’ to you, you just have to forget it and try again.” She also said you need “a stubborn streak a mile wide. If you love this stuff like I do, you have to be so stubborn. I’ve had so many ‘Nos’, or ‘You can’t do that’ or ‘That’ll never work’. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard those words.”