What does a truly inclusive and accessible metaverse look like? The leaders of DoorLabs, an NFT and Web3 experience digital brand, are leading the way in creating a virtual realm for every person. Kunho Kim, co-founder and current advisor of DoorLabs, is an avid disability advocate harnessing the accessible and inclusive potential that NFTs can have digitally and the value they can bring to people beyond the metaverse. Yiran Shu, creator of the inclusive metaverse theater and former architect for physical development, was invited to collaborate with Door Labs as a world-class inclusive metaverse expert. She shares her insight and thought process behind her digital design considerations for the platform and its partners.

Wunderman Thompson Intelligence speaks to Kunho and Yiran about the influence DoorLabs has had on other platforms, the impact of their NFT sales, and what a truly inclusive metaverse could look like.

What was your goal when you started DoorLabs?

Kunho Kim: We wanted to make projects that relate to people; projects that can actually impact people's lives. I truly believe that technology was made to improve people's lives. Using these new technologies to sponsor people, their schooling, or helping them help other people with disabilities, that means a lot to us.

Yiran Shu: In the metaverse, it's more of a matter of representation. We want to make people feel welcome, to feel that you are not ignored, you're not just another avatar. We acknowledge your superpower in this world. I think that's the difference: it's a step we choose to take, to represent.

Tell us more about DoorLabs’s Rollie Wheel Cards NFT donation project and why you started it.

Kunho Kim: It all started with the same thought: [I created] this inclusive metaverse, concert hall or space because I myself am in a wheelchair. I’ve been in the blockchain space for three or four years, but I've never really seen a project that specifically deals with people with disabilities. I think Web3 will be an important aspect of our lives, but whenever I go to these blockchain conferences, I often find myself the only one in a wheelchair or only one with a visible disability.

When NFTs came out, I thought: ohh, these are exactly like the baseball cards or Pokémon stickers that I used to collect when I was young, but it would be really nice if there was a collection that I can collect for people with wheelchairs. I thought that it would be fun for young kids to feel included if they're in wheelchairs or have different types of abilities. That's why we started the project, and Yiran helped a lot with designing and the concept to make these wheelchairs even better and more interesting for everyone.

Where do the donations from the Wheel Card NFT sales go towards?

Kunho Kim: We donated the proceeds from the Wheel Card NFTs to Fulbright University in Vietnam. From what we know, this is the world's first scholarship program sold from NFT proceeds. Our donations supported tuitions for two college students: Yen, a Vietnamese Paralympian participant studying social sciences, used a bit of her tuition to help visually impaired students who study psychology find jobs to become professional online counselors. The second student that we supported was Hoang: he's studying economics and computer science at Fulbright University and used our funding to buy a math player, and audio graphing calculator, and an Orion TI-30XS calculator.

The scholarships will support these students annually for the four years at Fulbright University. We want to make sure that this information can be shared with our sponsors or people who bought the NFT.

What makes DoorLabs different from other Web3 activations?

Kunho Kim: I think our focus is quite different from other NFT projects. We’re not really looking to make a profit, more-so trying to see how we can raise more awareness for people with different needs through different types of technologies. I think an inclusive metaverse project is the next phase of the Wheel Cards projects. How can we use this new immersion technology in the metaverse to better help and better equip people with different needs in the future?

A digitally-rendered gathering space featuring two green-caged towers and an island above the ground, accessible by a yellow sloping ramp that cycles around the perimeter of the collective space. An avatar with a wheelchair can be seen on the ramp.
A pre-launch version of DoorLabs's upcoming Concert Hall

What about your designs makes these metaverse spaces and assets inclusive?

Yiran Shu: [Designing these spaces for] the virtual world is sometimes about visual appeal, and sometimes it's more about playing around with materials, textures, light and forms. That freedom gives us a totally different feeling from real world architecture. In terms of inclusivity, because everyone's avatar can move freely and ignore gravity, [it’s accessible] for everyone of different backgrounds, different races and different abilities.

Kunho Kim: I think inclusivity and accessibility to different people is very important. The metaverse is just starting now, and I think [after] the evolution of the so-called web2 or web1, we are [now] embracing those needs [from the get-go]. It's all virtual, but having representation matters a lot. It's the same notion as why we have [skin-tone] emojis – the representation of different needs is very important to make people feel included and welcomed in these spaces.

For example, in the concert halls we’re currently designing, avatars will be able to go on and move along wheelchair ramps if they want to. These are something that anyone can use. We believe [these details] will be important because the metaverse will be one of the ways that people [interact] in their daily lives in the future.

Describe a truly inclusive metaverse in your own words. What components, differences, or foresight makes up an inclusive metaverse?

Kunho Kim: The metaverse, as Yiran has said, is dictated by different laws of physics and gravity, so we can overcome a lot of the physical limitations that people face in this world. What we want to do is increase the representation of these people by making characters that resemble the users.

We actually helped Gather [a digital space and video chat platform] to come up with a wheelchair. We reached out to them to say, hey, we're doing this inclusive metaverse project, and we would love to help Gather Town design [digital] wheelchairs [for its users]. We had a few meetings and now, they have a wheelchair character.

I think people get a little confused when we talk about accessibility or inclusive products in this world. In the physical, it’s more about how we can make physical ramps so people can [move freely]. When people think about digital worlds, they don’t think we actually need any of those. But, as a person who is in a wheelchair, this representation matters a lot. Even if I don't choose to play around with the character, just seeing one wheelchair makes me feel very welcome in that platform. We're very proud to pioneer accessibility and representation in this space, especially when people are busy building the physical metaverse. We want to help anyone who wants to include accessibility or inclusivity in their metaverse.

What’s next for DoorLabs – any upcoming projects?

Kunho Kim: We're coming up with new games and utilizing wheelchairs to make [the games] fun: a racing game, or a Paralympics track and field. We've seen a lot of running or marathon games or track and field in computer games, but we've never really seen a wheelchair racing game.

Our focus is: what are the next things that we can utilize at the frontier of the new technology to better help people with different needs. That's our mission and our core message.

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