Keynote Talk | Inclusive XR at Scale: The Nth Floor
Hi everyone, my name is Bill Curtis-Davidson and I co-direct the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology also known as PEAT, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy as a founding member of XR Access. PEAT aims to help ensure that immersive workplace technologies are born accessible. Today I am honored to introduce this year's keynote by Accenture and I’m joined by Liz Hyman. Thanks Bill and hello everyone as Bill said my name is Liz Hyman and I serve as the CEO of the XR Association also known as XRA. We're a non-profit industry trade association representing the broad ecosystem of the XR industry.
We promote the responsible development and thoughtful advancement of virtual augmented and mixed reality and we have been a proud strategic advisor to the XR Access initiative. Last year PEAT and XRA collaborated on a joint white paper, Inclusive XR in the Workplace, that highlights the potential of XR to support inclusive and accessible work environments across industries this white paper is designed to help orgs navigate the adoption of immersive tech as part of their digital transformation it outlines how accessible immersive tech can help employers upskill and empower an increasingly diverse workforce especially in high growth high demand jobs Bill I want to thank PEAT for collaborating with XRA on this very important white paper which can help orgs accelerate their digital transformations with disability inclusion in mind and when they do so benefits like improved job training and enhanced collaboration can be realized at scale giving them a competitive edge in a very tight labor market. In XRA’s 2021 report Insights And Industry Trends for HR and Learning Development, we surveyed 250 HR professionals and found that 81 of HR professionals have already widely adopted XR for learning and development and 61 percent of those surveyed believed XR will help them provide expanded work opportunities for talent located throughout the us given the increased use of XR in hybrid workplaces PEAT developed the inclusive XR and hybrid work tool kit to help employers better understand how to consider accessibility when procuring and implementing XR tech the toolkit provides tips on fostering a culture of inclusion and accessibility engaging in accessibility dialogue between procurement consultants and suppliers and getting involved in community efforts like XR Access we're so excited to see enterprises like Accenture adopting XR with inclusion in mind. In a moment Accenture will talk about their own enterprise metaverse known as the nth floor which are virtual environments they created to bring central people together to meet collaborate and learn in new ways whether hosting meetings or socializing the metaverse is a versatile scalable solution for bringing a geographically distributed workforce together with disability inclusion and accessibility in mind. And now we'd like to welcome our keynote speakers Jacque Madison and Marisol Villena Salerno as director of product accessibility. Jacque Madison is responsible for optimizing and scaling global accessibility practices into the fabric of digital experiences at Accenture. She enables employees partners and clients to build
buy and deliver solutions that contribute to its lasting culture of equitable digital access and inclusion .Marisol Villena Salerno manages inclusion accessibility and equitable product and program development across Accenture's enterprise metaverse the nth floor enabling experiences that allow all employees to participate and thrive. Prior to that Marisol spent the last two decades working in various roles across the company's IT team. Welcome Jacque and Marisol. Thank you Bill, thank you Liz. Accenture is the first enterprise to scale extended reality and the metaverse while championing digital accessibility and the inclusive design from ground zero.
Hello everyone we are so happy to be here today to help kick off the 2022 XR Access symposium. This is an opportunity for us not only to share but to learn from some of the most innovative minds in the field. My name is Jacque Madison and I’m here today with Marisol Villena to share Accenture's journey towards inclusive XR at scale. I am a white woman with shoulder length hair wearing a red sweater. I am currently serving as the Director of Product Accessibility here at Accenture and XR is my favorite digital product.
Right now there is still so much work to be done in this area and we have the ability to build the world that we want to live in and create more immersive and inclusive experiences. So accessibility is very personal to me. It allows my colleagues some of my family and friends and even myself to interact with the world fully and XR presents new ways for us to engage and experience things that we may not have been able to. Before
this week I visited my grandmother the matriarch of our family who is approaching the end of her life and is unable to do most things independently. I took this trip with my headset in tow wanting to take her to the perfect beach while she rests comfortably at home but because of some of her mobility issues right now navigating the out of the box controls would have created a very frustrating experience for her. So we sat and talked instead. Personal use of XR has been the focus of many of the solutions that we see today the common perception is that virtual reality and augmented reality remain largely limited to the world of games and entertainment but things are changing fast.
During 2019 industrial spending on these tools began to overtake consumer spending the acceleration is such that by next year industrial usage will be triple consumer usage and the uses of XR broadening and deepening as firms begin to realize their potential 68 of consumers said that COVID 19 elevated their expectations of companies digital capabilities and 60 said that COVID 19 is changing their relationships with technology as a whole companies see XR as a way to address business challenges they're talking about AR capabilities and applications with many large enterprises beginning to evaluate and adopt AR or VR immersive solutions is part of their digital transformation strategy. 36 percent of executives identify removing distance barriers is a driver in their adoption of XR solutions industry spending and AR and VR was expected to grow 134 between 2018 and next year by next year it's expected that 35 of businesses will adopt XR. Accenture has strived to be the first in the market to power our enterprise human experience with a seamless digital layer allowing all employees to connect and collaborate. With just shy of 700,000 employees across 50 countries connection and collaboration has never been more important and with numbers like that the ability to scale shared experiences is so critical. We know that people retain what they learn in immersive VR 33% better and that task
completion can increase by 17% but really people are much more emotionally connected and engaged. So uh here at Accenture 150,000 of our new joiners have participated in Accenture's new VR program. To date we've delivered over 60,000 VR headsets to our people providing omni-connected experiences and learning a lot on the way our current research is focused not only on the broader experience but on inclusion and accessibility of both the hardware and software.
When we think about pushing the boundaries between human ingenuity and technology we must constantly be challenging the status quo. And not just by going all in on emerging tech but by curating innovative impactful and inclusive experiences that go beyond just we have to dream to delight and we need to create easily consumable and accessible experiences for all. But how can we scale immersive experiences without leaving people behind? Bill a colleague of ours recently, he's a visually impaired employee here at Accenture, he was invited to his team's kickoff in the new VR collaborative environment. Unfortunately the current immersive experiences even in 2d they are inaccessible to users of traditional screen reader software. Lack of accessibility led to friction in this scenario I think that most
of us are here today because this is a difficult problem to solve for. But we need to be imagining a future that is increasingly accessible and designs with these scenarios in mind. Lisa Berlini one of my colleagues I work very closely with she's an accessibility expert here at Accenture and she's been using a wheelchair her entire life she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when she was six months old. For individuals
with SMA things like walking breathing talking and even swallowing can be difficult. But with the incredible advancements in technology they've helped Lisa function in her work as an executive and have enabled independent living at home at work. She finds the combination of her mouth joystick and on-screen keyboard helpful for typing she uses Dragon naturallyspeaking speech recognition software for long term segments for life at home. She has a robotic arm attached to her electric wheelchair that allows her to independently get a drink, eat food, move her feet for comfort, tidy up her home. She has increasingly achieved new milestones of independence in her personal and professional life.
Lisa’s experiences speak directly to the ways in which evolving technologies can help advance accessibility and inclusion for people with physical disabilities and she's not alone Lisa is one of 75 of people with disabilities who expect that technology will play a more prominent role in their lives over the next three years. So what does that mean for your employees and your customers what might that mean for the design of products and services. So when I said Lisa wasn't alone I meant it we have with 15.1 million working age people living with disabilities in the United States a failure to design technologies with accessibility in mind may mean costlier adaptations, overall loss in productivity, and a reduction in quality of life.
For the modern organization advancing inclusion by using accessible technologies will help their employees today and in the future, with 20% of employees expected to experience the disability of lasting more than a year. Organizations need to be prepared to bridge those gaps in digital accessibility for their employees especially as workplace technologies evolve So now I guess I would like to introduce Marisol to talk with you about how Accenture is embodying digital accessibility by pioneering inclusive design at the core of the metaverse and talk to you about some of the amazing work being done with our partners. Thank you Jacque. Hello everyone my name is Marisol Villena, I am the Product Manager for the Inclusive Metaverse product within the Enterprise Metaverse Team here at Accenture.
First of all I would like to introduce myself I am a Latina woman dressing formally to this event I am based in Spain and I have curly grey hair, I’m very proud of it as it empowers me to feel proud of who I am. But as a for your information it has not been easy for me to feel comfortable with it. I am joining from our accessibility center here in Spain, with some assistive technology that we offer to our employees. And this is a place where they can come and see what
we have available for them. This is my first time in the XR Access symposium, it's a pleasure for me to be with this group of extraordinary people around the globe to discuss inclusive XR at scale and our journey here at Accenture. The Inclusive Metaverse Team the team that I am representing, is a dedicated team created with the goal of ensuring that accessibility, equitable and inclusive experiences are in the core of what we deliver in the enterprise metaverse. Now that we have started to build it for everyone at Accenture. The first question that I would like to share with a group is how we are building these inclusive metaverse at scale, so let's go to the next slide please. We are building the inclusive metaverse at scale with inclusive design.
Inclusive design aims to include someone in the design process who was previously excluded and let me use some of the great references from the case of inclusive design developed by Microsoft and some of the principles we are using here in our design teams at Accenture. The advantage of the enterprise metaverse is that it is in its infancy. Therefore as we deploy it at scale we can design inclusive experiences as early as possible in this journey so we don't leave anyone behind. Why inclusive design is critical? It's critical because it provides equitable, inclusive, and accessible experiences to everyone which are the benefits of inclusive design. Let me share four of them. Amongst others of inclusive experiences especially applicable to the XR technologies first benefit with increased access by providing more opportunities to develop better experiences leveraging XR technologies. Remember XR opens a new set of opportunities and solutions with this new tech. Second benefit those experiences are more emotional context. Inclusive design is more than just design. Its understanding of the people,
the understanding the humans, their mindset the impact of the product's design. So in this case the impact of XR as a new technology that comes to stay at the workplace. It's important now that we are just getting started with an opportunity to build something inclusive from the start third benefit it reduces friction because a more accessible solution and inclusive benefits everyone fourth benefit it is inclusive to all people and prevent our people from being left out from the metaverse. Let me give you a couple of examples that represent that criticality it was brought to my attention when having that having a dedicated team for the inclusive metaverse in the enterprise matters product to design employee experiences develop to be developed here and design with consistency across for every Accenture employees, especially considering how employee the technology is being used here at Accenture because it can be used in such a different way. Otherwise we risk of failing to attempt to deploy it at scale. Just to highlight the feedback that we got from Lisa or Bill given by Jacque a few moments ago, or the ongoing feedback that we received from coming from our accommodation support tool, which is a global tool deployed for everyone at Accenture as a simple way for requesting accommodation support or anything else that anyone might need for being able to do their job. So let's go to the next slide because this is the summary that we have to build on one size does not fit all which is why we are connecting with individuals to get a personal insight into their experiences and challenges for brainstorming and and creating that tailored experience we seek individuals in Accenture with a permanent temporary or situational disability, or if we refer to the social model of digital inclusion, anyone where the environment in this case the metaverse needs to be adapted to be able to participate, to be able to access, or have a sense of belonging, in this case to feel included. Therefore it is important for
us to tailor those experiences, because if not we risk excluding people with different requirements and falling short for achieving the collective benefits of digital inclusion. So which is the process that we are using for building these metaverse at scale? So let's go to the next slide. Okay we are building the inclusive metaverse at scale as an iterative process with three major components. First step define create focus areas of a scope to get us started with. Second step of the process, connect, engage with individuals from every group to get feedback on their unique experiences. Third step of the process, determine experiences as they become tangible via accessibility features in the products to be used. Let me elaborate a little bit more on those faces. The first step of define, of creating the focus areas, in our case in Accenture we have started to focus on auditory, cognitive, mobility, and visual, amongst other areas that we know we exist, or even new ones, because of the use of this new technology.
For example a new challenge that we are now aware of is allergies to device materials because we have receiving cases of people that are unable to use their VR device because of that those allergies. So as we recommend today is to use our two version of that experience while we are working with hardware hardware partners in order to identify potential solutions on devices that can be free of allergens. Like probably what we can have available in the health industry. Second step of the process connect, engage with individuals from every group to get feedback. We have the power of having a very big employee research groups we call them ergs as a voice and channel of communication.
Ergs attack center are organized locally, so we and we do have presence all over the globe in Asia-Pacific, in Europe, and in America. We feel very proud of the work that the ergs are doing and their visibility is a success factor for the integration of our vision with their initiatives. We got feedback from those ergs up to date and this is what we are right now processing into feedback that we are going to implement into the products that we are using in the metaverse. Third step of the process, determine experiences. Once we have the feedback we have the information which we can share with ecosystem partners and vendors to incorporate it as they continue to define the applications that are going to be used in the metaverse.
We share those implementations back to the ergs so they can get early feedback on the proposed solutions before expanding and this is how it becomes iterative we expand on the feedback that we have received and we formulate the path forward. We implement the cadence to meet with those focus groups with continual feedback and discussion. So let's go to the next slide to tell you a little bit of more on where we are.
So we are keeping the momentum. We have defined the north star for the inclusive metaverse product. Our vision is to improve the employee experience of anyone, especially especially but not exclusively diverse employees, by tailoring the standard process to overcome the barriers that everyone may have on the technology to use as part of the day-to-day work in the metaverse. We improved employee
experience by incorporating inclusion guidelines baked into a normalized process that need to be followed by the enterprise metaverse teams, creating a lasting culture of digital inclusion which are the objective and key results they represent the baby steps that we are taking towards achieving this north star that guide us. Those baby steps can be in the form of defining a set of guidelines that need to be used by Accenture or our vendors or do accessibility testing. Barrage in those guidelines that we have just created, or in the inclusive space defining which are the behaviors that represent inclusion, which is going to be one step forward being accessible. We have set attainable goals because this is a journey
and the first step of this journey is get to score zero, and we will continue to grow after that. We expect hurdles across this journey knowing that XR is in a very early stage we know that we are trailblazers as part of this journey. So we expect hurdles as we define the path that then everyone else can then follow. Those hurdles can be in the form of technology readiness or adoption to the new work that we are going to do with this modern, new technology. And we will in a process where we celebrate success. It's important for us to celebrate
the important milestones that we have achieved during this journey, and I am bringing two examples that represent those milestones that we have achieved. So let's go to the next slide. Given that Accenture champions inclusive design with ecosystem partners and pushing innovation beyond limitations. I am bringing the two examples that are displayed in images that I am presenting. The first image is about Talespin. Talespin is a partner for immersive learning that we are using in enterprise metaverse. This
example represents how we approach accessibility when working with partners and vendors. It's important to highlight that this is not a single company effort we work with partners and we push them to ensure that the product to be used in Accenture should must be accessible, following the accessibility guidelines. So in other words we are really pushing the entire ecosystem. We have be seen this when we have been managing previous relationship based on the work that we have been doing in accessibility in the past. And this is what the process that we are going to follow going forward when we implement the technology that we are going to use in the metaverse. The second image that we have in this screen is about a person from our team
in Brazil, his name is Sergio, he's blind and he has been developing interesting solutions for navigation that we are going to explore on how to leverage for the enterprise metaverse. The difference in this example that is that in this case the solution is built within Accenture. So let's go to the next slide to talk a little bit more about the solution that Sergio has has created. The first question that I would like to share with all the group here is what is augmented reality for the visual impaired? This was the first challenge that Sergio had when he joined the Accenture's liquid studio. He shared his perspective of what augmented reality is and Sergio built an ultrasound device and an app to help augment his senses.
He did not have any haptic devices by that time but improvised using a couple of mobile phone vibration motors in a wristband to show him direction and guide him using spatial sound. After the initial version of the app Sergio worked using a 3d audio in a smart glass to help him navigate in unknown places by identifying objects, distance, direction, Sergio has perfect perception of depth in the 3d audio is more accurate than mine, which makes the technology especially important for screenless navigation scenarios. So let's play a video where Sergio can explain a little bit more in detail about this solution that he has built. Can we please play the video. Okay. So Um Is Will continue to work in that POC but now what I would like to do is I would like to share with you another example in this case the example of cell speed so let's go to the next slide please okay so a little bit to get us started with with. What is Talespin? Talespin is an immersive learning company, an Accenture is working with Talespin on pioneering inclusive design of accessibility features for workforce talent development and immersive learning platform, which is Talespin’s vision statement, deliver a reality where fun effective and continuous learning drives prosperity for all. A little bit about Talespin’s VR training modules,
Talespin learning modules enable learners to develop crucial soft skills through role play with virtual human characters through advanced VR, human animations, conversational interactions, and voice input. Talespin content delivers a level of quality and user engagement beyond what is typically possible through role play and remote learning solutions like e-learning or traditional video. So let's go to the to the next slide to talk about a little bit more about the accessibility features. They also have been an approach on accessibility in virtual
reality and where they are today. Talespin modules are currently in the state of beta testing, and Talespin is in the process of integrating accessibility enabling features. There are three ways how Talespin is enabling accessibility into their XR models. First via new features, second via expanding the functionality of an existing feature, third we are using a new feature integration through learning design. So in the next slide I will talk a little bit more about those examples. But before doing that. I wanted
to give a brief overview of Talespin accessibility journey. The step one of the process of how they started into this accessibility journey is by reviewing the XR industry standards. We all know that there is no one place to go for accessibility guidance in the XR, so we need to pick and choose from these certain places. So in this case we can go to the XR Access, the XR Association,
the WCAG guidelines. Are also in section 508. The second step of the process is to the accessibility team to create a list of requirements. The goal of this preliminary list of criteria is to get an overview of the requirements and propose a preliminary list of solution approaches. This matrix will help empathize with the users and to allow ally how to meet their needs. The third step of the process is the prioritization of the requirements to be further designed and integrated. After considering the short-term and long-term solutions to meet the user's needs, the engineering team evaluates the technical feasibility and scope and prioritization is just one the way of ordering which one go first because of the impact, or the quick wins, or the complexity, for approaching them. So let's go to this next slide to talk a little bit more in depth
on these features. Okay so the first example that I am bringing today is a new feature, enable accessibility for mobility and speech impairment. So in this as part of the process Talespin define with what is a minimum viable product of this feature, and what is the feature of the future state. So in the in this slide I am sharing two images. The first image represents a training a scenario, including a role play, of a person asking a question to the trainee and for the trainee need to answer, with you selecting one of the three options presented. In the current approach for selecting the correct answer the trainee used voice input for the selection, but the accessibility feature incorporates that now they have the option to additionally to voice input, thus being implemented gaze input, so now Talespin gives the option to use gaze for input. The selection of the correct answer. And this is what I am displaying in the second image. Which is the same role play scenario. But in this case
how the person can select the option is using gaze input. Accessibility is about giving alternatives. If we use as a reference what we know from web accessibility content guidelines and digital experiences, we extrapolate that into the VR technology, which means give additional ways to interactions for the users depending on their needs. And let's go to an example. Great. In this example we have enabling functionality via existing features, so in this case enabling accessibility, for hearing impairment. I am also here displaying two examples, two images, the first image represents a conversation happening as part of the training. And in this in and in the solution that they have available today. There is a functionality called word highlight displayed at the bottom of the screen, which is being used for reinforcing an important message. And how this can become an accessibility feature?
The functionality of word highlight is expanded into closed captions, so this can help users with hearing impairment or as a matter of fact anyone who is interested in using closed captions right? So in this case they are expanding the functionality of an existing feature into new features. So thanks to this modular functionality of current features, they can expand into these features without compromising backward compatibility. So let's go to our next and last example this is non-feature integration through learning design. And this is not a feature
right. Make accessibility requirements as part of the production pipeline is a requirement. This is this is a standard practice that needs to be happening during development, and in this third example we are also presenting two images. The first image represents a role play where the image of a person watching the trainee implicitly expects a response from the trainee. And this is not 100 obvious. So in the second image the proposed solution includes
leveraging a multiple choice option available already in the learning module to make it more understandable what is the expectation from the learning. The trainee is expected to provide input, which is what is happening in the second image. The reduction of cognitive overload can be achieved by providing efficient context on the conversation. This can be either a response of the VR to human or a contextual description of the narrative. So this is all for my side. I hope that you have enjoyed knowing a little bit more about how we are approaching the inclusive metaverse. The examples that we have provided can be used as an
inspiration for a potential accessibility features that you would like to implement in your solution, and how inclusion in the metaverse looks like. So I would like to now go and go back to you Jacque. I thank you so much Marisol. I am so proud to be a part of this journey here at Accenture. So to close I would like to highlight a few key takeaways. Uh first you know we need to incorporate accessibility as early as possible into our digital solutions. Second this is a journey but just taking steps every day will bring us closer to the goal of equal access for all.
And lastly XR solutions are full of opportunities right now to design experiences that will allow everyone to be part of virtual reality. So thank you all for tuning in to our discussion, we will now take a break.