Virtual reality app could help train women to negotiate higher salaries

virtual reality app gender pay gap variable labs hackthepaygap choices
Whether the reason comes down to systemic sexism or different life choices, the gender pay gap, which describes the average difference in pay that men and women earn over the course of their careers, has been in the news a lot recently.

One explanation for this gap in earnings, particularly when it comes to similar jobs, is that women are less likely to negotiate when it comes to salary offers. For example, one study of graduating MBA students discovered that half of the men had negotiated their job offers, compared to just one-eighth of the women.

With this in mind, a new virtual reality tool created by Oakland, California, developers Variable Labs hopes to help — and it’s got Washington backing to do so.

Designed to simulate salary negotiations, the Samsung Gear VR app takes the form of a branching narrative to help women navigate the challenges of getting paid what they’re worth. The resulting proof of concept was one of seven apps created as part of a two-month “hackathon. It was presented at a special White House event on Tuesday.

“We teamed up with the American Association of University Women, who are the leaders in providing skills and tools to women for salary negotiation,” Variable co-founder Mario de la Vega tells Digital Trends. “We’ve taken their curriculum and translated it into a 360-degree, immersive, cinematic VR experience. [With the app, users] can make a pitch to a potential employer about a higher compensation package, or practice responding to resistance from a virtual manager. The idea is that we’re building it up to have various levels of difficulty, so [higher levels] might have a more resistant boss that is going to give more pushback.”

Right now, the app is more like an adventure game where the “player” picks different options out of a limited selection, although de la Vega says he could imagine ways to develop the concept going forward. “We could use breakthroughs in voice recognition, motion tracking, and voice tracking to provide feedback on things like eye contact, body language, whether people are speaking loudly and directly enough, [or] whether there voice is wavering,” he says.

For now, however, it remains an interesting tool that hints at some of the real-world applications of VR. Rather than punishing people for being good negotiators — as companies like Reddit are doing by banning such negotiations — tools like this could act as training platforms to give everyone the skills to carry out tricky financial conversations.

As Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, one of the people at the White House presentation, said: “I wish I had these tools to benefit my own career, and for the benefit of the businesses I’ve run.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.