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.
28) Gunita Kulikovska, founder and CEO of Vividly
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!
With the VR tool Vividly, designers and architects can now see their designs sooner than ever. Gunita Kulikovska, also a TEDx speaker, is still very passionate about architecture. In an interview for Women in VR website, she said: ” Architecture is such a beautiful art, it is driven by explicit synergy between form, function and well being. However, a lot of its beauty is hidden in architects’ vision, in his mind or pile of sketches that only architects can understand.”
Vividly is trying to improve the way artists communicate their ideas and to establish VR as a real tool, and not just an expensive toy. The medium is great for raising funds, convincing customers and to have more control over your own projects.
Kulikovska has definitely put herself on the map, as she was one of the Forbes 30 under 30 talents in 2016 in Latvia. Archipreneur has also given her praise, as she was proclaimed one of seven most inspiring female entrepreneurs in field of architecture.
29) Dr. Mari Carmen Gil Ortega – Senior Lecturer, University of the West of England
You know how most people think VR is mainly for gaming? Well – turns out it may revolutionise our education. Things are rapidly changing, and now there are many different VR courses available. Dr. Gil Ortega’s for example; she teaches Virtual Worlds, where she uses VR to improve students’ linguistic skills.
Her background is in languages and linguistics, and she taught higher level Spanish for a while. As a part of her doctorate, she was researching problems international students were having learning new languages. Here is where she discovered her passion for using computers to enhance learning.
When she started using VR as a part of her language course, she immediately saw results. Immersing students into virtual environments not only rapidly improved their fluency in the language by talking to native speakers, but also boosted their confidence and expanded their knowledge of other cultures.
30) Anna Lee – Adult Entertainment Producer and Director
We always seem to tiptoe around the topic of VR porn. It feels a little embarrassing that one of the best markets for our futuristic VR technology lies in satisfying our most primal needs. But we shouldn’t be ashamed, it’s only human nature after all.
Anna Lee would probably agree. How does a woman become a porn director, when porn is such a male dominated area? Well – when she realized her student loans are piling up, she didn’t hesitate to create a phone-sex company. She hired some friends she met in acting class, and soon they were making what they called ”hooker money without actually being hookers”.
Later, she started developing VR porn. They’ve been one of the pioneering companies in this field. They scanned a famous adult actress and made a 3D model based on her. The viewer could interact with it using a headset. They’ve developed a whole VR world. In it, you can do anything from having sex with a virtual model, to taking them on a dinner or dancing. The company took the project to AVN awards, and got lots of positive feedback, but also requests for live action in 360 video.
So they got the equipment necessary, and started doing 360 VR porn videos. Lee says that filming in 360 is completely different than using traditional cameras. With them, you are always searching for the best frame or angle, but in 360, the most important thing is how the situation makes the viewer feel. She’s trying to achieve an illusion of intimacy in her videos, but there are a lot of other angles worth exploring.
Also – her opinion is that VR porn is not likely to make traditional 2D porn obsolete. It will just create another market.
31) Ela Darling – VR Live Broadcasting Pioneer
So, while we’re on the subject of VR porn, have you ever heard of Ela Darling? She’s one of the first porn actresses that started doing it. She started doing porn in 2009, and by 2014 she already founded Vrtube.xxx. In 2016, she launched Cam4VR (also NSFW).
She got the idea for doing VR porn by being exposed by Virtual Reality. The technology wasn’t as accessible as today, and she didn’t quite know where to start. Luckily, she got the help she needed from two college computer geeks. They equipped her with a 180 camera, which was basically just two GoPros stuck together with duct tape and attached to the wall. Some time later, she decided to get into 360, and had a lot of technical difficulties. She used 12 cameras, that were glitching constantly. Sometimes the majority of the footage would be useless, because they weren’t synced up properly. Next, she and her team tried to create a complete VR experience by scanning the body of the performer in space and putting the scans into digital environment. That gave the viewer the chance to move around in virtual space, but the scans looked unrealistic in places. This kept breaking the illusion, and the team realized this technology wasn’t quite there yet. From there, they developed a dating simulator, which was an incredible success. The experience was incredibly immersive, and the viewers felt like they were really talking to the performer.
Darling is also a big advocate for adult entertainers’ rights. She hopes that VR will give girls who want to succeed in porn a chance to be more independent.
She wants to give adult performers access to new technology and platforms to expand their brand and succeed in this new space.
32) Jenna Pirog – NYT VR Editor
We have already mentioned The Times’ VR initiative when we talked about Kathleen Lingo above. To recap – they’ve sent Google Cardboard VR glasses to their readers, and gave them access to 360 immersive videos via their VR app.
Jenna Pirog is The Times’ VR editor and producer of 12 extraordinary VR projects. Her most famous 360 film, ‘’The Displaced’’, won the first prize for Innovative Storytelling (World Press Photo) and the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in the Entertainment category. It was also nominated for an Emmy in the New Approaches to Current News Coverage category.
This short documentary film focuses on three children and their families, who were all forced to leave their homes (in Lebanon, South Sudan and Ukraine) due to wars. Read more about ‘’The Displaced’’.
She says that shooting a VR documentary is a whole different project than a usual film. One of the many challenges is that you can never know in which direction the viewer will be looking, so you have to nail the placing of the cameras. What’s more, she had a hard time planning the project, because she had to find the right subjects to film. She also couldn’t use any of the standard storyboarding techniques, and had to study the kids’ routines before she knew exactly what she wanted to film.
33) Sarah Hill – StoryUp
National Edward R. Murrow, NAB Service to America and 12 time mid-America Emmy award-winning Storyteller. Sarah is the CEO & Chief Storyteller for StoryUP VR, an immersive media company. Sarah holds a provisional patent on immersive story for VR therapy. An alum of the Missouri School of Journalism and former adjunct faculty, Sarah’s reporting has taken her team around the globe capturing VR stories about the human spirit in the Amazon, UAE, Congo, Haiti and Zambia.
Sarah is fascinated with what she calls “Human Media”, or the evolution of communication to a three-dimensional world. Virtual and mixed realities are two mediums in which Sarah likes to create. StoryUP’s roots are in virtual travel for Veterans. In 2015, Sarah built a program called “Honor Everywhere”, that uses Virtual Reality to allow aging World War II Veterans the opportunity to see their WWII memorial. Sarah is a former interactive news anchor for the NBC & CBS affiliates in mid-Missouri.
Her team at KOMU-TV pioneered the use of multi-way video chat during a newscast. She’s covered the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia and produced documentaries in Vietnam and Guatemala on the world’s mobility problem. Most recently, her team produced VR documentaries from the Amazon and eastern Congo about energy poverty. StoryUP creates content at the intersection of Journalism and Neuroscience.You can read StoryUP’s case studies about immersive media and its impact on brain wave patterns for empathy, motivation and mindfulness here:
http://www.storyup.com/ Let’s StoryUP!
34) Samantha Kingston – CoFounder of Virtual Umbrella
When Samantha Kingston went for her first VR related job interview, she wasn’t really sure if she was interested in it. But as soon as she saw the demo, she was hooked by the possibility of tech.
She started her own business and co-funded Virtual Umbrella. It’s a marketing agency that focuses on VR. They recently ran the biggest VR event in history in London (February 2016) – the VRUK Festival. Virtual Umbrella loves to bring the UK community together. The company also works across sectors from gaming, engineering, education, healthcare and more. Making sure the VR content is made right and created for the right reasons.
She didn’t know that sexism was a problem in VR industry, but learned all about it in first person pretty soon. She doesn’t let it get her down though, and responds to it quickly.
She’s a big supporter of women in VR, but doesn’t let that cloud her judgement when hiring staff. The only thing she’s interested in is talent and whether the person is good at what they do. Samantha has built her company up on passion and honesty, she is always happy to help.
35) Camille Kanengiser – Co-Founder and CCO of Freeform Labs
After studying Animation at USC, Camille Kanengiser co-founded Freeform Labs, a company that develops family-friendly, creativity-focused content for VR/AR. She has spoken on a variety of panels, covering topics ranging from the technical challenges of building compelling user experiences, to the importance of diversity and equality within the industry.
The company is still very much in start-up mode, but they’ve already signed a $750,000 deal with the Swedish publisher Starbreeze Studios.
They’re currently working on ElemenTerra, a game in which you are a nature spirit with the power to shape worlds. The project has already won multiple recognitions, and we are eagerly waiting for its final version!
Tech world is dominated by men and smart innovative women like these ones here rarely have the chance to be exposed. With this article we wanted to spot the light at one of the most creative, hard-working ladies out there in the industry of immersive technologies. There are hundreds of more smart minds out there and we are sorry if we left some out.
Don’t forget to join the Facebook Group Women in VR and join the growing community.