BrickRose Exchange is a Baltimore-based business that leverages virtual reality, artificial intelligence and augmented reality to enable businesses and organizations to host events and operate in the metaverse. (Courtesy Photo from Bianca Jackson)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

As more people access the metaverse and explore three dimensional worlds, Bianca Jackson is training Baltimore businesses and organizations to take advantage of the immersive technology and introducing them to the power of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI). 

Her business, BrickRose Exchange, allows individuals to host and attend events in the metaverse without the need of a headset. The events can include concerts, exhibitions, shopping experiences, listening parties, product launches, workshops and more.

BrickRose Exchange also provides strategy consulting to budding entrepreneurs, established business owners and nonprofit leaders so they can bring their services and products to the metaverse. 

“When you think about the Black community, we’re always the last ones to adopt anything new for whatever reason. We let other people try it, and then we jump on it, but we can’t afford to do that with the metaverse,” said Jackson.  “There are already major corporations that are setting up this new digital economy, and if we’re too late to the party that means we have to play by everybody else’s rules. 

“We’re only going to be able to access whatever opportunities are left because we haven’t gotten them first,” she said.

Jackson was first introduced to VR while she was working for USA Today. There, she became the project manager on an emerging technology team in 2016.  

“In my research, I was looking for what kind of VR content already existed, and what I found for women, especially Black women, was really degrading content– it was pornography,” said Jackson. “It made me so angry because that meant that someone was using this really new, emerging tech, and they couldn’t find any other narrative for Black women other than to be a sex object. Instead of letting the anger consume me, I realized I had a unique opportunity to drive this team to break down the barriers of racism and sexism.” 

One of the projects Jackson led, “The Wall,”  leveraged VR to publicize stories from undocumented immigrants and give individuals the chance to explore the U.S.-Mexico border on the ground. At the time, Congress was voting on whether to fund the building of a border wall. 

The project won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. 

When Jackson started BrickRose Exchange in 2019, the business focused on live events, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she quickly anticipated the need for virtual event services. 

Leveraging metaverse technology allowed Jackson to keep her company running, while also helping others to pivot their operations. By using the metaverse, businesses and organizations can create new revenue streams, expand their markets, build brand loyalty and cut costs, according to Jackson.

As Brickrose Exchange grows, Jackson wants to continue elevating education around the metaverse and other emerging technologies, so that she can help increase adoption, particularly among marginalized communities. 

“I want to put this tool in the hands of small businesses, artists and creatives because the metaverse, in my opinion, is really mixing art with tech and business,” said Jackson.

“I want to tap into the raw talent of the city because Baltimore is one of the few cities that still has a soul.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.