The metaverse draws in people from all different backgrounds. From creative types to cryptocurrency collectors, the virtual environment seems to have room for all. The creative atmosphere of the metaverse seems to be especially prominent, encouraging artists from all over the globe to participate. One of these individuals drawn in by this creativity is Evo Heyning, the CEO of Playable Agency, a company combining virtual and real experiences. “I started as a speculative fiction writer,” Heyning explained, “developing stories about our relationships with AI, quantum, and immersive technologies back in 2005, after joining Future Salons in Los Angeles.” While Future Salons is no longer in operation, it was impactful enough to help Heyning explore other artistic media. “I had been writing and producing film media in LA and jumped from that into interactive media, with virtual worlds, as an avatar specialist and strategist for a wide variety of clients: governments, non-profits, corporate associations, and international organizations like the UN that curated art shows and talks all over the world,” she added.
Heyning’s talent also allowed her to help create some of the fundamental software that would go into shaping the metaverse. “I created the first ManorMeta memory palace in Second Life in 2005, then kept building across VR and AR platforms as those spaces became easier for everyone to access and collaborate with,” Heyning stated. Second Life is considered one of the original games that inspired many of the current metaverse companies, like Decentraland. In 2005, when Second Life was at its peak popularity, few industries were ready for the current state of the metaverse. Because of this, creators like Heyning had to wait until the metaverse became more mainstream. Fueled by a childhood love of programming and art, Heyning continued to wait for more people to get invested in the space.
Once the metaverse gained more of a following, Heyning helped to create the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group (OMI Group) focused on making the metaverse open to all. According to Heyning, the OMI Group “works on the connecting tissue that brings us together through these tools and enabling technologies.” As there are few groups within the metaverse monitoring its growth and community composition, the OMI Group stands out as an important player in maintaining a diverse metaverse industry.
Heyning uses her passion for the community in her position as CEO of Playable Agency. This company combines virtual and physical experiences using art and media. With the talent of hundreds of interactive artists, Playable Agency can create custom events for any group setting. Previous custom events include leadership training, pop-up circuses, and art motels. Guest numbers for these events have ranged from hundreds to thousands, showing the clear interest people have in VR and AR technology. With experienced artists, bright colors, and fun games, Playable Agency has found success in bringing virtual environments to life for all to enjoy.
In bringing virtual reality to life, Heyning also hopes her work is making the metaverse industry more inclusive. From her own experience, Heyning has found that the industry can be difficult for many to join, creating unnecessary barriers. “I self-funded decades of learning across the industry by showing up to volunteer events, from hackathons to conferences, just to get my foot in the door,” Heyning explained. “These opportunities are hard to access and even harder to identify and break into for new leaders. Even after decades of hacking together a postgraduate path, I wouldn’t be here without a full scholarship to the graduate program at Singularity University where I was given time to study the intersections of quantum and biocomputing with the other layers of the metaverse experience, from hardware to wetware.” Because of these barriers, Heyning recommends a few starting places for those looking to join the industry. “Scholarships, grants, and internships are a great place to start,” she added. Heyning also recommended several methods for lowering these barriers. “Keep providing open doors to self-guided learning and collaboration across fields and sectors so that new collaborations give birth to greater endeavors,” she stated. “In all things, make sure there is an open door to participation and interaction with the greater community, not a one-way street.”