Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Stephanie Llamas is VP of Research and Strategy, and heads immersive technology insights at SuperData Research, a company providing insight into the current generation of interactive entertainment using proprietary transaction and immersive technology data.
Stephanie is a digital media veteran with over 10 years of experience. She is one of the first analysts to cover the current generation of immersive tech, leading SuperData to become the gold standard in XR research. Stephanie is also an advisor on new media and technology for the Smithsonian Latino Center, and regularly shares her professional insights with leading outlets and events such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CES and SxSW. She is also a co-author of “Charlie Fink’s Metaverse”, a continuously updated guide to VR, AR, and the coming revolution in personal computing.
Stephanie, how did you get into this industry?
I was writing doing research in grad school on social movements and gaming but honestly as I delved into extremist groups, it started to become emotionally difficult to keep pursuing. Right after I decided to wait to go into a PhD program I accidentally stumbled on an opportunity to work at SuperData (at the time we only did market research on games). It seemed like a great opportunity to research a lighter side of games and I became the third hire. As I grew our research methodology and offerings, in 2015 my husband and I started looking at ways to incorporate VR into our research. After we produced a short market brief, I became fascinated with the industry and decided we should be looking more closely at the space to help create transparency. That's become my goal, as well as expanding our research to cover all sectors of the market -- not just gaming -- so we can help decision-makers find ways to build a sustainable industry.
What does your current job role in SuperData Research entail?
I am the VP of Research and Strategy, which means I oversee all of our analysts and research methodologies for the segments we cover (games, esports, online gaming videos and XR). I also lead our XR strategy, deciding what research and products we should focus on, as well as going out into the field and both teaching and learning about the subject. You could say I'm our XR evangelist.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
We are currently working on breaking out revenue on the title-level so we can help investors and content creators see what monetization models and applications are finding success. We also are expanding our enterprise research to help connect the demand (companies interested in XR) and supply (developers) sides and grow opportunities in the space.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Honestly, moving to NYC has been my biggest achievement. It was a really difficult thing to do - moving my whole life over from Miami with no job, no money... it's been my biggest challenge yet! But if I hadn't, I would never have gotten my masters and then gotten this job I have now. I'm so grateful to do what I do everyday... being a thought leader, woman and Latina in a male-dominated industry has been an enormous achievement. I get to speak at amazing conferences, interview with talented journalists and meet leaders in the space. It's something I could only do because I came to NYC!
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you?
Coming from games research, I've seen a very crude side of how women are treated in the industry. I have so many brave, trailblazing women to thank for helping pave the way for me to be successful, so it's my responsibility -- as I believe it is for with all women in tech -- to keep creating a better industry for the talented females of the future. Different cultural and gender perspectives are so essential to creating inclusive products and content, which doesn't just help the bottom line but creates channels for knowledge exchange and innovation. It's important to me that women are part of the conversation and don't get discouraged out of the industry by the likes of gamergate, employer discrimination or sexual harassment.
What are the challenges of being a woman in wearable tech / VR/AR?
Well, the good thing is that we are catching up to men in the VR/AR industry. It is a lot more inclusive than games, but certainly not inclusive enough. I've heard of women being denied funding over men or being looked over for opportunities they are the most qualified for. More than anything, sexual harassment is a huge issue. Why do we have to be objectified in such an intellectual and innovative field? Our brains have nothing to do with our sex and yet it's tied to our identities. It's unacceptable.
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the wearable tech and VR/AR industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
(1) Companies will rely more on XR (VR/AR/MR) to create safe, efficient and innovative solutions for enterprise challenges, making it the norm in industries like automotive, design and medicine.
(2) Mixed reality devices like Hololens will launch consumer versions, and Magic Leap will become a pervasive solution for business and military use cases.
(3) Every major theme park will have some kind of XR experience.
(4) AR will be on virtually every smartphone, and retail in particular will drive real-world revenue through more effective e-commerce and payments solutions.
(5) VR headsets (particularly standalones) will penetrate a quarter of American homes, with cinematic, gaming and interactive experiences earning a combined $20B.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and VR/AR?
Obviously, Nonny de la Peña - not only for being a pioneering woman in the field but a Latina. Maureen Fan, the CEO of Baobab Studios, is also such an inspiration. She helped launch a content studio that, in VR's infancy, has won Academy Awards and Emmys. And finally my good friend Helen Situ. An evangelist from the start, she has continuously been on the forefront of the industry. So many people know her for the excellent work she's done.
LinkedIn: Stephanie Llamas
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.