Paolo Narciso ’22 (Data Analytics & Visualization MPS) came to MICA as what he calls an “atypical student,” with a doctorate already under his belt and a strong engineering background. He currently leads product development and innovation for ARRP Foundation.
“Our work at AARP is based on delivering social impact, and one of my tasks is to use data to not only improve our social impact, but to communicate it as well,” he explained. “My strengths are not around the ability to tell a really good story with data. That’s why I took the Data Analytics and Visualization program at MICA.”
And his work at AARP not only led Narciso to MICA, but spurred him to found Core Immersive Labs, a startup whose mission is to provide the training, tools, and opportunities for underserved populations around the world.
“When the pandemic hit, a lot of older adults were becoming much more isolated. So at AARP, we created a virtual experience, or VR experience, called Alcove where older adults could experience things with their family together even when they were in different locations—tour London together, or drive across the US on Route 66, for example. Alcove won the industry VR of the Year award in 2020,” Narciso said. “But it was really hard to find the talent to help build this. And it was not a diverse team, and I wanted a diverse team because it just makes a better product when you have different perspectives.”
Technology, he noted, iterates overtime, and the Internet is moving into a new kind of immersive experience called the metaverse. With more than $3 trillion dollars being invested into it, the metaverse is expected to double in the next five years. In its broadest terms, it is described as a virtual space where people can work, play, shop, and socialize—an experience that can fundamentally change commerce, economies, and human interaction.
And Narciso wants to develop a diverse pool of talent now for this emerging technology, because—just like in the development of the Web—the current builders of the metaverse are generally from privileged populations, leaving out underserved communities and their voices and ideas by gender, race, age, and ethnicity.
“The challenge with diversity is it's not just about hiring people who are African-American or Latino. It's also really hard for these employees when they're in the new organization because there's no mentors with their same backgrounds and experiences,” he said. “Developing talent now for an emerging sector and emerging technology means that people learning today can be the mentors to others when VR is considered normal 10 or more years from now.”
To achieve this, Core Immersive Labs will provide free training to a diverse pool of participants, with its first cohort forming later this year. The company will generate revenue as a global innovation lab, and through job placement services.
“My goal is that we become the largest metaverse training organization or VR blockchain training organization fully focused on building diverse talent in the world. I’d like to see, on average, about 2,200 people come through the program on a yearly basis,” Narciso outlined. “That's what I would like to happen in the next three years. It’s ambitious, but I think we can get there.”