Makers of The Metaverse: Thomas Kidrin of Worlds On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
12 min readMay 2, 2022


Efficiency, mentoring, collaboration, education all will bring a new dimension to our work life. We don’t think about how cumbersome word processors were when they were first rolled out, but as refinements evolved, word processing has become taken for granted and is so integral to our lives that we don’t even thing about the underlying process. So too will this new industry’s products and tools.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Kidrin.

Thom Kidrin has been at the forefront of online interactive technology since its inception, overseeing development of: the first celebrity online virtual world (now called metaverses) with David Bowie (Bowie World); the first 3D virtual world ecommerce stores; the first virtual worlds for major entertainment groups including Aerosmith, DMC, Hanson and world renowned brands such as Coca-Cola in China, WWE, and the NY Yankees; and the first 3D educational virtual worlds for Pearson Education. Additionally, he oversaw the development of technologies that allowed for interaction between large numbers of players which became the foundation for online interactive gaming enjoyed by millions today and developed College Television Network, an interactive entertainment/advertising network that was sold to MTV and became MTVU. Today, Kidrin heads Real Brands Inc., and continues to lead Worlds Inc., as it interweaves new virtual and augmented reality technologies with cryptocurrency and NFTs in innovative ways to further enhance entertainment, business, education, and many other aspects of our lives.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I’d say I had a “Pleasantville” childhood growing up in the ’50s. My folks were creatives, so the smell of oil paint and turpentine was ever present. Canvas, stonework, and stain glass were everyday projects. My dad would always say, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. It’s yours not theirs.”

I remember going to Greenwich Village in the ’50s and seeing the “beatniks” in black berets and black turtlenecks playing jazz under old streetlamps in Washington Square.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

HG Wells’ “Time Machine” instilled in me the belief that I could figure out how to warp time. Since my math teacher could explain how we could divide in half between 2 fixed points infinitely, which meant theoretically there was an infinity tunnel, I realized that adults don’t always have the answers.

I built crystal radio sets, when Radio Shack was called Tandy Corp and sold electronics and leather working supplies. I used to go to Canal Street in NYC and rummage thru electronics for my experiments. I recall blowing out the entire electric circuit in my house at about 8 years old.

There was a book I also remember; I think it was “Different Worlds, Different Perceptions,” and it described what it would be like to live on different planets with different gravitational forces, light levels, long time elapses between dark and light and temperature and how an organism would have to evolve and perceive thru particular senses and physical anatomy. That insight prompted me to see things thru the eyes of different environmental conditions; creating adaptive perceptions from our Earth beings.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.

I was always fascinated with the notion of immersive interaction and actually built what I called the “Video Visor” in 1981 with small head-mounted Ikegami color monitors and mirrors with a gyroscope. In fact, it was used as a prop in an Aerosmith music video.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

I ran into two childhood friends whose father had a coin op route of cigarette machines, pinballs, and video games. They were driving in a limo, which was odd for them, so I took them to dinner and asked how they could afford this luxury. They explained that in the arcade business, once a video game started to fall off in revenue they had to buy new equipment for about $2500 per machine. They realized that they could change the graphic and EPROMs (erasable programmable read-only memory game code chips) for under $150 and sell the upgrade for $1000, keeping the cabinet and coin handling hardware. This became known as retro kits.

I was in TV production and up to speed on the latest video equipment and technology and aware that laser discs were capable of track jumping in the vertical interval (the blink of an eye) and had a higher quality of visual and audio than a traditional arcade games and that Laser discs could be replaced for a few dollars. I contracted a proof of concept and demo from undergrads at the MIT Media Lab who had worked on the Aspen Project, a tank training simulation system that MIT developed for the military.

I came up with the first Laser Disc based game system — The Wall Street Journal wrote a very stellar article; investment bankers came calling and that started my career in the interactive entertainment space.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t know if any mistake is funny, but rather a learning experience. Probably the stupidest thing I did was put a floppy drive with a week’s worth of code next to a bulk magnetic eraser. That was embarrassing and hurt, but I learned to think through the consequence of every move I make with valuable one-off data that’s not been backed up.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Bernie Stolar, a video game legend, the former CEO of Sega America, and former Sr. VP of Sony Games; having launched the Play Station in the U.S. Bernie has been a friend and mentor for over 38 years and a member of Worlds’ Board of Directors for 20 years. I met Bernie when he sold me the first laser disc players for our laser disc game system. Bernie was always gracious in inviting me to high level private dinners, introducing me to industry players from the US and Japan, and always offering advice and analysis on technical game design and marketing strategies. As Bernie moved up the corporate ladder to the C suite, I always would remind him that, at heart, he has always been an electronics salesman, albeit one of the best.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

As a CEO of a public company, I can’t get into details until an official announcement, but I can say that we are working on the blending of chemistry and technology that I believe will have a profound effect on helping large segments of people suffering from varying degrees of mental health issues. An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, as reported by Johns Hopkins Medicine. And less than 10% of patients who have a mental health disorder actually get effective treatment, according to National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). We see a huge opportunity to significantly improve millions of lives.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

I’m excited by the validation of VR that I entered 23 years ago. This is the third wave. I started in the first wave in 1994. The second wave was Second Life in 2004. And now with Meta’s commitment as well as Microsoft’s and likely soon Apple’s, the time has come for mainstream acceptance.

We are already seeing applications in education and training by automotive and aerospace for industrial utilization and efficiency. I’ve seen some very impressive architectural walk throughs with multiple users from around the world literally checking out the electrical conduit locations and plumbing lines between buildings that haven’t yet been built. That was inconceivable 10 years ago.

Widespread adoption is finally possible, primarily because we have broad deployment of critical enabling technologies that include:

1. Broadband speed,

2. High speed processing

3. High resolution graphic capabilities

The tools are broad based and user friendly for a wide group of creatives to design and develop.

The intervening years have refined concepts of integration and human psychology. We also now have a generation that has been inculcated with digital interactive entertainment and expects, as well as creates, highly sophisticated multi-layered engagement.

It’s a cultural norm today with some quite interesting novel ideas that are cost effective and relatively quick to develop and deploy.

Clearly, the easy-to-use tools for world building that Roblox offers demonstrates user-created content that is easy to do as well as addictive. Similarly Sandbox and Decentraland offer a framework for virtual land ownership and cross-traffic exposure to a larger user base than may be available under a standalone site. The psychology of ownership and creativity shared in a community is compelling. Integration of streaming video and game play as layers augments the engagement of users and fans.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

Like every new rollout of mainstream technology, there are dark sides, and abuse is always a part of the equation. I believe that active, constant forum moderation is required. I fully embrace free expression of ideas and communities of common interest. However, wherever children are capable of being influenced, and as we have seen with information bubbles today, walls are being built and distorted fields arise. Manipulation is a constant concern to me. We have an obligation to self-evaluate the products we develop and must consider the implications of our content on society.

As any industry evolves, we should, as forerunners promulgate accepted SOPs that, hopefully, as an industry we can agree will be beneficial to society. Pharma, broadcast TV, and automotive do it and we should as well as we enter a new era of blended reality. But we should not rely solely on the industry to police itself, as history has proven across many industries, there will always be bad apples. In addition to accepted industry SOPs, there needs to be independent external regulation and enforcement.

I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?

Efficiency, mentoring, collaboration, education all will bring a new dimension to our work life. We don’t think about how cumbersome word processors were when they were first rolled out, but as refinements evolved, word processing has become taken for granted and is so integral to our lives that we don’t even thing about the underlying process. So too will this new industry’s products and tools.

Are there other ways that VR, AR, and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?

As I mentioned before I am of the belief that with the integration of advance AI and supercomputing, the medical field will experience major realignment.

For example, the utilization of smart bot avatars that interface with an AI platform, such as Watson, to analyze a medical condition and suggest possible causes and treatments down to the level of demonstrating a procedure virtually, is unprecedented and invaluable to a small local hospital or rural medical center.

Similarly in distance learning applications, a student that is in a remote location can collaborate in a virtual classroom with simulations that take the student across time and through history reenactments, as well as allow them to see in first person what the streets of Ancient Rome looked like or walk through the city of Pompeii as Mt. Vesuvius is erupting.

In the field of nutrition, the concept of carbohydrate conversion to sugars is abstract, but if a user could take a VR tour inside the human body and see what the digestive tract and conversion process looks like with the impact on body organs, there could possibly be a positive effect on eating behavior because of the personalized experience.

The entertainment industry will always have linear story lines, but an exponential change will occur in the art forms of entertainment with integrated wearable devices.

In Bowie World, the first celebrity metaverse created in 1999, Worlds enabled fans to go inside some of the David Bowie imagery and for the first time could inhabit an avatar that David was involved in designing. The advent of wearable smart body accessories and clothing with air bladders and micro motors will enhance the sensory experience of events, such as watching a football game in a VR environment and feeling the tackle impact with smart vest-triggered actuators further enhanced with an olfactory dispenser wafting the smell of dirt, grass and sweat.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?

There is a prevailing myth that those who excel in technology are “geeks,” “nerds” or mathematically gifted, when, in reality, it’s everyday people with creative drive, intuition and luck that make thought take form. Our industry’s leaders are some of the most fascinating people you could ever met, with extremely varied interests and one common trait — a passion to create novel solutions to improve specific areas.

Another myth is that the most successful tech developments come out of Silicon Valley or Austin. Boston-based Worlds and hundreds of other companies we are associated with are living proof that innovation is not tied to geography, but instead linked to the mindset of individuals who are willing to look at things with open minds to develop new solutions. With the ease of online collaboration, we and many other companies assemble talent spanning the globe, and work seamlessly together without the constraints of being in one central office.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

My personal journey is the example. I was told when I started, that VR was just a fad, a gimmick. It has waxed and waned over two decades, but continual thinking through the issues of limitation and possibilities on what works is an ongoing exercise and must be constantly practiced. Engage with other people in your field, ask tough questions, dare to dream, and then seek a solution. It can be done. Travel the full distance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would like to instigate large-scale collaboration with diverse disciplines in seeking solutions to major medical conditions and illnesses, such as rewiring the brain for motor skill rejuvenation. I’ve done work with VA vets who have lost limbs and seen firsthand the return of function to those just beginning on the road to recovery with prosthetics, as well as the psychological improvements when they can see their avatars performing functions that they are relearning. It’s truly inspiring. There will be a tremendous need for these types of rehabilitative technologies after this unnecessary war in Ukraine is over.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I’ve been quite fortunate in my life to have had private meals with Mikhail Gorbachev, Muhammad Ali, Michael Milken, and other renowned individuals, and it’s their intellectual curiosity and analytic insights that I most look forward to exploring. At this time, I’d say I would like to meet Bill Gates for his evolving legacy and Mark Zuckerberg for his belief in VR/AR and continued personal growth.

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!



Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market