Jenn Duong took time out of her busy schedule (filled with running her Facebook Group "Women in VR", hosting Meetups for VR and getting the startup Koom VR off its feet) to sit down with VR Dribble and discuss stories, women in VR and her favorite TV show - Game of Thrones.
Hey Jenn, tell us a bit about yourself: where do you come from and where are you going?
J: My background is in English and film, so I've been inspired by storytelling for a long time. In terms of where I'm going? We all know that VR is the future. Rather than replacing film, television or theater, I think VR will exist in a unique and exciting category on its own. The VR ecosystem is still very much in its early stages, and the various contributors - content creators, hardware companies, distribution platforms, etc. - need to work together and help each other to bring up the ecosystem as a whole. It's rare to find such a young and independent industry, and I'm excited to be a part of that collaboration and dialogue.
When did your passion for virtual reality first become ignited?
J: When I thought about the types of stories I wanted to tell, I couldn't specifically identify a way of delivering those stories in the way that I wanted. Then I had my first VR experience, and that changed everything for me. I felt that this is a technology that can truly revolutionize storytelling and the many other possible applications for VR blew my mind. I soon began to live and breathe VR. How could you not?
Tell us about Koom VR? What does the company do, what's your role in it?
J: Koom VR is a new startup (currently in stealth mode) developing a device-agnostic mobile platform for distribution of VR content. With practically any Android or iOS smartphone and a mobile VR headset, the Koom app will allow users to easily browse, upload, stream and experience fully immersive VR content. As Content & Community Manager, my primary focus is to help build and support a strong community of VR content creators through the various resources of the Koom platform. Keep an eye out for us in early 2016!
Who is favorite character in Game of Thrones?
J: Daenerys of House Targaryen: the First of Her Name, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Protector of the Realm, Khalessi, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.
In five years, what role do you think virtual reality will have in our lives?
J: In five years, I think VR will be ubiquitous and most people will be familiar with the technology. I also think people will naturally consider VR as an accessible form of entertainment: families will play games together, watch 360-degree synced experiences together, even use social VR to chat with people across the world. This will be the norm.
From a creative standpoint, if you could create anything for VR, what would it be?
J: One of the most exciting aspects of VR is that it so uniquely provides the new element of “immersion” in storytelling. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. For me, being able to create emotionally-driven stories rather than singularly character-driven or plot-driven stories would be tremendous-- Stories that allow the audience to really put themselves emotionally into the experience and walk away learning something about themselves.
You recently started a Facebook group for Women in Virtual Reality. What was the motivation in starting this? In what ways have you or others benefited from it thus far?
J: Along with a few others, I felt there was a need for a central hub of communication for women who work in VR. We wanted to create something that would foster seamless collaboration among women regardless of geographic limitations. For example, someone who directs in San Francisco can work with someone who does coloring/stitching in New York. 2016 will be a huge year in VR and I’m excited to say I’m working alongside women like Helen Situ (NextVR), Julie Young (Emblematic Group), Aashna Mago (River VR), and Ashley Pinnick (VRG) to share the exciting opportunities to come. We’re not trying to replace the existing meet up groups at all. We really just want to be a channel that can empower them, whether that’s by helping them host an event or just being here as a networking channel. We are working on some stuff for 2016, but right now I’m glad that people are finding the Facebook group useful. That’s what it is there for.
What's the most impactful piece of VR content you've seen to date?
J: Kiya from Emblematic Group is amazing. It’s a piece that you watch, and it doesn’t matter that it’s not live action because it’s so compelling. That’s when VR becomes art.
Who is your biggest influencer in the VR space?
J: Everyone is coming up with such smart and unique ways to innovate and change assumptions we have about VR. I’m truly inspired by everyone I meet working in VR.
Leave us with an inspiration quote.
J: Do not be afraid to experiment, and do not be afraid to fail. If we don’t do projects because we’re worried about the technology not being there or that what we are making isn’t good, we failed automatically because we didn’t even try. There is a lesson to be learned in every effort in VR. So if you have something you want to make, just do it.