Virtual Experience, Real Impact: Finding Your Place in the World of VR

VR Storyteller Lou Ward explains how to launch your career into the next frontier of technology.

One of the world’s fastest-growing industries, Virtual Reality is attracting some of today’s best and brightest professionals — like Filterati, VR Designer, and community organizer Lou Ward. Lou embodies the curiosity and passion that are helping drive the industry forward, and loves helping newcomers find their place in the booming world of VR. In this week’s “Gimme 5”, he shares why he fell in love with VR, where the industry is heading, and why now is the time to get in on the ground floor.

1. How did you end up in Virtual Reality?

About 3 years ago I was at work and had the opportunity to try an Oculus. This initial interaction with nascent consumer-level VR technology inspired me greatly — it seemed like such a transformative piece of technology capable of truly revolutionizing storytelling. I Immediately started studying game development and attending every VR event or conference I could, striving to learn everything about this technology as fast as possible.

2. What’s most exciting to you about working in this field?

I think the most exciting part of working in the VR field at this point in time is that, although it has been around for some time, the technology is finally almost at a consumer level. Access, in large part, has been democratized, enabling a host of new people to create and experiment. This newfound accessibility will, I believe, lead to an array of new, exciting techniques and developments.

3. Where does your fascination with space photography come from? How does it relate to your VR work?

The replica spacesuit has certainly been a recurrent motif in my photography. I’ve lugged him around quite a bit, even across the Pacific to Japan; however, I originally acquired it for a short film project about an indigent astronaut.

As to how it relates to my VR work — to some extent it is just another effort at visual narration, albeit through the medium of photography. Also however, they can maybe be seen as thematically interrelated in that both my photography and VR work are otherworld-focused: the former beyond earth into space and the latter beyond the physical world into the virtual.

3. You’re an active member of Seattle’s VR community. Why are groups like the Seattle VR Meetup so important at this stage in the industry?

Generally, I think that this dialogue is immensely beneficial, both to the individual and to the broader community; we gain from talking to one another about our VR projects and receiving constructive feedback.

The community is also great place to form partnerships and start collaborations. Moreover, although this field is certainly exciting, the work is nonetheless work and can be frustrating, so it is great to have a community to commiserate.

5. What is your advice for professionals in neighboring fields who want to transition into the VR/AR/MR space?

I’d encourage anyone interested to attend a hackathon. Moreover, I’d suggest working on several small projects (not all at once though); I think this method is preferable for beginners because larger projects can be encumbering. In such a rapidly developing field it is crucial, particularly as a beginner, not to get bogged down.

Lastly, if you want to know more about working in VR, talk to someone who has been in the field for a while. They will give you the best insights about how to best study and pursue work in whatever part of VR interests you most, whether it’s sound, animation, coding, or another area.

Check out more of Lou’s advice to aspiring VR professionals in our recent blog post, 4 Reasons Why 2017 is the Year to Start Building Your VR Career.