A Visit to AIE

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking to a group of students at AIE, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, based in a warren of classrooms and skinny hallways upstairs at Seattle Center’s Armory. I had been asked to share my thoughts on VR to people who understand a lot more than me about how to actually create VR experiences. Students at AIE spend two years … Continue reading A Visit to AIE

What I’ve Learned from Playing Video Games

Several months ago I started hanging out with video game designers. The more I got to know this fascinating tribe, the more self-conscious I became about my own lack of gaming knowledge. I realized I was coming across as pretty uninformed, with my points of reference stuck resolutely in the mid nineties–Myst, The Sims, Civilization. I knew that if I was going to work in virtual reality I at least needed to be conversant in some of the gaming conventions that were being ported over from the world of consoles and RPGs. I threw myself at the mercy of my social network and asked if anyone would take pity on a poor book nerd such as myself, lend me their console, and suggest a couple games. I expressed particularly interest in open world, explorable sandbox games.

Members of the local VR community were characteristically generous, and pretty soon I found myself with an XBox One, two XBox 360s, and lots of games. I felt a bit like Christopher Plummer’s character in the Mike Mills film Beginners, discovering house music at age seventy. It’s both humbling and exciting to explore a whole body of knowledge that you’ve otherwise ignored.

I was intimidated by the complexity of console games. The vaguely amorphous controller with its multiple buttons and two joysticks always looked unfathomably complicated and I couldn’t imagine ever mastering it. As I loaded up the first of what would prove to be a series of deep gaming experiences, Red Dead Redemption, I felt as though the reprogramming of my brain had begun. Continue reading “What I’ve Learned from Playing Video Games”

Reality Distortion

Damn, was I ever hit by the nasty flu bug that seems to be making its way through Seattle this week. I’ve always found the worst part of getting sick is the accompanying feeling of uselessness. What the hell did I even get done these past couple days? While I wasn’t aching and sleeping I was reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. I recently got … Continue reading Reality Distortion

Are You Looking for VR/AR Jobs in Seattle?

Last week’s VReality event at Microsoft’s Building 99 in Redmond. About a third of this audience raised their hands when asked if they’re looking for a job in the VR/AR industry.

Every morning, sometimes before I even roll out of bed, I check my email for my Indeed.com VR jobs alert. They come time-stamped around 6am, with subject lines like “4 new virtual reality jobs in Seattle, WA.” Here are a few of the listings I’ve seen recently:

Program Manager, Oculus Education

UX Designer, HBO

Technical Artist, Daydream (Google)

User Experience Designer – Virtual Reality (HTC)

Autism Research Fellowship, Seattle Children’s Hospital

Analyst – Advanced Concepts, Blue Origin

I’ve been paying attention to VR job listings since March of last year. At that time I discovered that a startup in Fremont called Pixvana was hiring software engineers. I suspected that in time, companies like Pixvana would start hiring for more non-technology related positions. At some point these companies would need marketers and other creative minds to communicate their technology to the world.

I still think that’s going to happen, but most of the VR job listings I see are still related to coding, engineering, UX, and testing. Chris Hegstrom, who recently worked on HBO’s Westworld VR experience, characterized the state of VR jobs in Seattle with a handy metaphor, saying, “If 2016 was the year of opening all the VR presents on Christmas morning, 2017 is the year of rolling up our sleeves and assembling the content. We spent last year looking at the marketing image on the box & imagining what it will be like once completed but there was more conjecture than actual building. This year is all about opening up the box, scanning the instruction manual & hoping we have the correct tools & batteries (& we don’t have to steal them from the emergency flashlight!) Because of this, we’ll see more jobs around content creation and VR production design opposed to research and experimentation.”

I hope Chris is right. And I’ll be curious to see where these content and production jobs come from, whether from the startup community or from the big players.

Continue reading “Are You Looking for VR/AR Jobs in Seattle?”

Reasons for Optimism in a Downer of a Week

This seems to be a week of bad news for Seattle’s VR/AR community, with two developments of Debbie Downer-level magnitude. One, Bellevue-based Envelop VR has closed. Signs didn’t seem good at Immerse a few months ago, when Envelop, a sponsor of the conference, conspicuously reserved an empty booth. I have little information about the company’s closure so don’t feel qualified to offer much comment. I do want to say, however, as someone who has been laid off three times, that I hope Envelop’s former employees find new opportunities soon.

The second bummer piece of news is that the City of Seattle rejected a proposal to convert warehouse space at Magnuson Park into a film production facility. A number of passionate local film/VR professionals have worked on this proposal for over two years, and I imagine this comes as a tremendously dispiriting development. I’m sure they feel like this:

Continue reading “Reasons for Optimism in a Downer of a Week”

This is What Happens When a Class of Fourth Graders Gets Their Hands on Tilt Brush

I hosted my daughter’s fourth grade class field trip to CoMotion Labs today. Scobot and Tarik Merzouk were on hand to show the kids Tilt Brush and Google Earth VR. Their enthusiasm made my day; I find that watching kids encounter VR for the first time is way more fun than experiencing it myself. Scobot had two groups working in Tilt Brush create collaborative art … Continue reading This is What Happens When a Class of Fourth Graders Gets Their Hands on Tilt Brush

Seattle’s VR Community Reflects on CES

Last week the Consumer Electronics Showcase offered myriad glimpses into the future of VR and AR in that most apocalyptic of American cities, Las Vegas. A number of Seattle VR pioneers were in attendance, either to showcase their own work or to simply soak in the latest hardware and experiences. I asked a few people to share their impressions, and offer them here, lightly edited, … Continue reading Seattle’s VR Community Reflects on CES


Steve Turnidge, Greg Reid (behind the drums), and Jamie Simmonds

Last night I hung out in the back room of an industrial sign fabrication plant in Ballard to watch four musicians jam–Steve Turnidge on guitar, Jamie Simmonds on a turntable, Nate Omdal on bass, and Greg Reid on drums. Despite having never played together before, they quickly found various grooves and sounded great. I sat back and enjoyed their improvisations. A long time ago I played in bands and this experience brought back pleasant memories of making noise with friends in windowless practice pads, albeit ones without cool lights and a smoke machine. Continue reading “Jam”