Manja and Dejan are VR evangelists who believe in the power of immersive storytelling.
The Virtual Reality train is accelerating and if you haven’t caught the bug yet, you’ll miss out on a lot of cool things. The industry is gaining so much momentum it’s impossible to neglect the possibilities. Now that billion-dollar-headsets hit the market you have no excuses to scratch the VR curiosity itch.
When we’ve first done the research about the major players in Virtual Reality, we’ve found the expected bunch of heavy hits – the Palmer Luckeys and Tony Parisis of VR. So we’ve made a men only list. What a mistake! However, since then we’ve started researching deeper, and a lot of female names have been popping out. Actually, because media is so inclined to boast male creations, the ink is drained when they get to women.
Because AR and VR is such a young technology, women have been able to participate in it from the start. There are a lot of activists and organizations that support and encourage women to join the VR circles, for example the Women in VR platform. Jacki Morie, a VR scientist at NASA, has researched the creative VR experiences between 1985 and 2007 where as much as 70 % of those creators were women.
So here is a list (in no particular order) of some of the most innovative, creative and capable people alive! We sincerely apologize is we left anyone out. Be assured – there is so much talent out there that we are bound to create another list soon!
1) Liv Erickson – VR/AR developer evangelist at High Fidelity
As soon as Liv saw The Matrix she was sold. It’s tough to say what Liv1 isn’t in VR industry. Beside working as a developer at High Fidelity, she’s also a co-organizer at ARVR Academy, teacher and a Startup Mentor and a Host at Just A/VR Show. She’s doing quite a lot of public speaking gigs at conferences, so you have a good chance to see here somewhere around Silicon Valley. Make sure, to bookmark her personal blog as well.
“The Matrix is my office”
2) Helen Situ – Product Marketing at NextVR and Creator of Virtual Reality Pop
If we are speaking about VR evangelists, Helen should be on the top of the list. Working as a Marketing Manager at NextVR, she spends a ton of time flying around the world to personally show business leaders their first virtual reality experience. The team at NextVR did the first live streamed NBA using VR cameras: Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans. NextVR is going to continue bringing new experiences to sports fans including fans of NHL, NASCAR, Soccer etc… Does this mean you will be able to see every game from your coach court side? Something like that.
“Revolution will be live-streamed”
3) Jacki Morie, PhD – Owner/CEO at All These Worlds (NASA)
This lady has been creating Virtual Reality experiences before Palmer Luckey was even born. Dr. Morie’s career has focussed on making VR experiences more emotionally evocative. As part of that work, she invented a scent-release device to bring the emotional power of scents to VR.
Jacki is a frequent speaker on VR topics especially its applications in health, training and social. She has more than 20 years of extensive knowledge in building immersive VR environments. She was also responsible for designing the first combined technical and artistic year long training program for incoming computer animators at Walt Disney Feature Animation and is currently teaching VR classes at Otis College of Art and Design.
4) Christine Cattano – Co-founder and Global Head of VR, Executive Producer at Framestore VR Studio
Framestore is a studio which makes visual effects for movies and commercials. But lately, it’s been mainly a pioneering VR innovator. Executive Producer Christine Cattano is responsible for the following immersive experiences:
– Warner Brothers “Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them” VR
– HBO’s Game of Thrones “Ascend the Wall”
– Paramount’s “Interstellar”
– Marvel’s “Avengers”
– Merrell’s “Trailscape“
– Volvo’s “Volvo Reality”
She’s a highly driven woman, who sets the bar higher for each of her projects. She understands the medium of VR perfectly, and knows how to convince her clients to let her make her own decisions. All of her hard work is worth it, as nearly all of her productions have won awards for innovation and creativity.
Here’s an interview with her and it’s definitely worth checking it out.
5) Dr. Helen Papagiannis – Augmented Reality Specialist
Helen is another super smart woman with extensive track record – more than 12 years – in AR industry. She was featured in a book “Augmented Reality: An Emerging Media Technologies to AR” in 2013. Rather than technical details, Helen went deep into the power of storytelling with this new medium.
Currently she is finishing her new book “Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping the New Reality”, that’s coming out in July, 2017.
6) Nonny de la Peña – VR journalist and CEO of Emblematic
Nonny de la Peña has been a journalist for her whole life. She has always been compelled to make stories that can make a difference and inspire people. She worked in print, documentary and broadcast. Until she found out about VR about 6 years ago.
Her VR career started with a journalistic project called “Hunger in LA”. In 2012 she and her intern Michaela Kobsa-Mark recorded audio at food banks many hours until a day where a man waiting in the long line who had diabetes didn’t get food in time. His blood sugar dropped too low, and he collapsed into a diabetic coma. As soon as I heard that audio and responses of other people on the scene, she knew that would be the kind of evocative piece that could really describe what was going on at food banks. She reproduced the scene in virtual world, investing her own money and present it at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The emotional force of being present made audience members try to touch non-existent characters and many cried at the conclusion of the piece. She was onto something.
Today Nonny is widely known as the godmother of VR. You don’t get a nickname like that for nothing. Her dedication to VR is unwavering. She once said: “ Sometimes I wanna shoot myself in the head that I can’t do anything else because it just motivates me. Virtual Reality drives me. This is such a visceral empathy generator.”
Together with her brother, Nonny runs Emblematic Group – a company focused on VR Hardware and content in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s worth mentioning that Palmer Luckey (founder of Oculus) was his intern. The godmother is a true pioneer of VR and she’s finally getting recognition these days where the explosion of VR projects is the spotlight of the tech world.
Fast Company calls tagged Nonny as “One of the People Who Made the World More Creative”
Also, check out this awesome TED TALK.
7) Suzanne Leibrick – VR Storyteller, Co-founder of ARVR Academy, VR Artist
Suzanne Leibrick truly is amazing. She’s like a Swiss army knife of AR/VR developing. She knows how to do anything from code to stop motion animation, from VR production to computer painting. She passes on her knowledge for free at ARVR Academy – a nonprofit organization which provides education in VR/AR industries. They mainly focus on educating communities which are underrepresented in the tech industry. She’s also a UDACITY course developer, where she teaches 360 Storytelling and Immersive media. She’s also very active in the Indie VR community.
On her website, she says that her motivation has always been story, regardless of medium. If you’d like find out more about her work or look at her portfolio, check it out.
8) Maria Korolov – Freelance Technology Writer, Editor and Publisher at Hypergrid Business
Maria wears many hats. Besides being a cybersecurity expert, she is the president and founder of Women in Virtual Reality – a networking and advocacy organization with a mission of increasing the visibility of women in virtual reality and attracting more women to the field.
She’s also an editor and publisher at Hypergrid Business – the leading publication covering OpenSim, which is a fully peer-to-peer, completely distributed, infinitely scalable, hyperlinked virtual reality platform. OpenSim is open source, supports Oculus Rift, allows in-world content creations, and lets avatars teleport between different worlds, and send messages and content between worlds.
9) Crista Lopes – Professor of Informatics, OpenSimulator core developer, founder of Encitra
Cristina Videira Lopes is a Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. She’s another technological superwoman, and if you read her bio, you’ll stare, awestruck, to all of her achievements. She was one of the founders of the Xerox PARC team that developed Aspect-Oriented Programming. She claims to be the only person in the world who is both an ACM Distinguished Scientist and Ohloh Kudos Rank 9.
Lately, she’s been focusing on her work for OpenSimulator – ”an open source multi-platform, multi-user 3D application server. It can be used to create a virtual environment (or world) which can be accessed through a variety of clients, on multiple protocols. It also has an optional facility (the Hypergrid) to allow users to visit other OpenSimulator installations across the web from their ‘home’ OpenSimulator installation. In this way, it is the basis of a nascent distributed Metaverse.” She’s the platform’s core developer and one of its main architects.
She is also a founder of Encitra, a company specializing in online virtual reality for early-stage sustainable urban redevelopment projects.