November 4, 2016
Quite a bit has been said already about women in virtual reality. I was just at the Weird Reality conference in Pittsburgh last month (fabulous!) and the conference organizers made an effort to be inclusive in gender and ethnic background. Major props to Golan Levin. It was so refreshing. I felt like I could relax a bit and enjoy the show without a nagging discomfort about who was not there. Several women at the conference took their moment on stage to point out not only the lack of gender diversity in VR, but also the prevailing aggressively male environments of the VR industry. I know what they are talking about because I have experienced it. It seems to come from the unfortunate combination of lack of diversity and a fiercely competitive environment fuelled by a tech bubble which threatens to implode at any moment. Still there are some shining lights and I will list some of the women that I have run across lately. Hopefully it can be a starting point the next time you are looking for a woman on your panel or an artwork for your exhibition.
First, a NYMag article highlighting the work of women in VR: http://thecut.io/2dxhKPW
Also Kaleidoscope recently teamed up with Oculus to launch DevLab, “a new initiative to support independent VR creators and explore the boundaries of virtual reality as an art form.” Their initial lineup features quite a few women (yay!). Here they are:
Lab’Surd From Judith Guez
At the Stereoscopy and Illusion conference I recently attended in Paris I met a fellow calico cat, Judith Guez, doing fabulous work with illusion in VR. The work I saw was called Lab’Surd, an installation using the HTC Vive as the VR device. The setup is beautifully designed and creates a seamless transition between the physical and virtual. The VR experience is about six minutes long during which the environment becomes more and more surrealistic. It is beautiful, dreamy, engaging. One of the best VR experiences I have seen in a long time. I will write a more extensive description of this work in a forthcoming post.
The quirky work of Laura Chen also deserves a shout out. She has created some wonderful VR sketches that are thoughtful, fun, and freeing experiences. I tried her VR communal pooping experience and was immediately charmed. Don’t poo-poo it until you try it, preferably with a friend or three. It’s Chapter One of a series that she is developing. She is currently working on a chewing experience and has rigged a google cardboard with a brilliant DIY chewing sensor. Other works of note are a series of masks or headsets for experiencing reality.
Claire Hentschker is doing some very interesting work using photogrammetry with filmic sources (including The Shining!). She reconstructs the film sets using only the film frames and then lets you navigate though them. She also did a very charming collaboration with a nine-year-old, bringing to life his drawings and characters.
The group EleVR is an absolute marvel and they have been experimenting with 360 video and webvr for quite a while, making them one of the most innovative (and fun!) group I’ve seen. M Eifler showed me some of the work she has been doing with Hololens and even though I had tried Hololens a few times before, when she showed me what she had just created as we were sitting at the bar, I was completely sold on the future of AR, even with a (currently) narrow field of view. Andrea Hawksley is a brilliant inventor, genius at WebVR and camera rigs. Vi Hart…well she is just a spark of creation in this universe. Her 4D visualizations with monkeys blow me away. Anyway, just check out their work. Invite them to wherever you are. You won’t regret it.
Ok I’ll end it here for now but will keep adding to the list, posting more brilliant women in VR as I think of them or meet them.