This isn’t the first time technology has been created with a gender bias; research conducted in the 1960s set the standards for air conditioning temperatures based off of tests run on 40-year-old men. Given that men have metabolic rates up to 30% faster than women, the comfort levels, still used today, often leave women freezing in the office while men are warm and fuzzy.
Products such as Oculus Rift and Hololens have many marveling at the possibilities of these immersive technologies, but some are questioning whether there is inherent sexism built into headset VR products.
The politics of this technology stem from the beginning phases of creation: headset VR has fundamentally been created by men without any awareness to the needs of anyone else. In order for the technology to function properly and give users the full immersive effect, the hardware design consists of several straps that wrap tightly around the user’s head and face. These products may not be functional or attractive to many women; those with longer hair will experience ‘helmet hair’ and makeup will surely be wiped off by the facial components of the headset. If they themselves do not experience these effects, designers are sometimes oblivious and indifferent to these concerns when creating the product.
Implicit sexism may also be apparent in the use of VR headsets. By virtue, these products place users into whole new worlds. Doing so, however, can render users completely unaware to the real world around them. Full immersion and isolation, with the headset and earphones, can lead to concerns of safety and vulnerability for some women. Men may be able to use the technology anywhere, without fear of anything happening to them while they take a break from reality, while women may not be able to afford such luxury. Concern of personal safety may lead women to only use headset VR products in the comfort of their own homes.
It’s great technology, however, in it’s current state, half of the population may not want to use it.
Listen to Director of Product Marketing, Steve Kingsley-Jones, to learn more.