#6: Nonny de la Peña on Immersive Journalism, Empathy in VR storytelling, Human Rights, Virtual Identity, Diversity in VR & collaborating with Palmer Luckey at USC

This interview with Nonny de la Peña was by far my favorite discussion from the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference & Expo. It’s moving to hear about the type of emotional reactions that she’s receiving from her human rights-centered, immersive journalism pieces that are experienced within virtual reality. She has some amazing insights into VR storytelling, virtual identity, and the importance of bringing in more diversity into VR.


Nonny has been working on VR storytelling since creating a Virtual Guantanamo Bay prison cell in Second Life in 2009. She started working on with VR HMDs before the Oculus Rift existed, and in fact was a part of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies when Palmer Luckey was there. Luckey even provided Nonny with a pre-Oculus Rift HMD for her 2012 Sundance showing of “Hunger in LA.”

She’s also worked with Mel Slater, who has explored a lot of interesting effects of Positive Illusions of Self in Immersive Virtual Reality

Nonny has a ton of insights on the components of creating a compelling VR experience from starting with great audio to creating a believable virtual humans. I also found her vision of a tiered VR future of the untethered IMAX-like experience to the Oculus Rift home experience, and then finally mobile VR to be a compelling distinction for the different levels of VR immersion and associated technologies.

For more information on the service that Nonny uses to create her virtual humans, then be sure to check out this interview with the founder of Mixamo.

Reddit discussion is here.


  • 0:00 – Intro to Immersive Journalism & how it got started
  • 1:29 – Recreating a scene of a Guantanamo Bay prison cell in Second Life
  • 3:30 – Taking control of somebody’s Second Life avatar, and the type of reactions of going through an virtual re-enactment of being a Guantanamo Bay prisoner
  • 4:29 – How people identified with their avatar being bound
  • 5:14 – What were some of your first immersive journalism stories that used a fully immersive, virtual reality head mounted display? Identifying with a VR dody in stress position
  • 7:12 – Institute for Creative Technologies, Mark Bolas, and her connection to Palmer Luckey
  • 8:02 – Immersive VR piece on “Hunger in Los Angeles” & starting with audio
  • 9:20 – Palmer Luckey & pre-Oculus Rift, VR HMD prototype for Sundance January 2012, and audience reactions
  • 11:42 – Commissioned VR piece on Syrian refugees shown at the World Economic Forum
  • 13:21 – Witnessing a border patrol taxing death
  • 13:56 – Next projects and the potential of immersive storytelling
  • 15:20 – What are some key components of storytelling within an immersive VR environment?
  • 17:32 – Why is the reaction of empathy so much stronger in immersive VR?
  • 18:38 – What are the risks of putting people into a traumatic VR scene and triggering PTSD?
  • 19:47 – How do you direct attention within a immersive VR story?
  • 20:55 – Are your immersive journalism pieces interactive at all?
  • 21:30 – How else are people using this immersive VR medium to tell unique stories?
  • 22:47 – What type of software and hardware are you using for your virtual humans in your immersive VR pieces?
  • 21:15 – Being the only woman panelist at SVVR and importance of diversity to VR’s resurgence.
  • 26:36 – Bringing into more diversity into VR storytelling
  • 28:19 – The tiers of VR experiences of IMAX, home and mobile.
  • 29:20 – Location-based, untethered VR experiences being equivalent to going to an IMAX movie.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:12.077] Nonny de la Pena: Hi, I'm Nani de la Pena, and I have been building something I call immersive journalism, as well as other immersive narratives, which basically take you into virtual worlds and let you experience what it's like to be there as a scene unfolds.

[00:00:28.730] Kent Bye: I see. And so how did this get started?

[00:00:31.448] Nonny de la Pena: So I began my virtual reality work with just lust. I read Howard Rheingold's book, and all I ever wanted to do from that moment on was get into VR. And it took me a pretty long time to really apply it to what I was doing, which was I was a traditional storyteller. I was a correspondent for Newsweek, and then I left Newsweek to make documentary film, and I did some interlude as a Hollywood writer, and was on staff on TV shows, and just producing, but nothing ever scratched the itch. And then I, along with a digital artist named Peggy Weil, won a MacArthur grant at the Bay Area Video Coalition to build a virtual Guantanamo Bay prison in Second Life. I had done a documentary film called Unconstitutional, that had a large section about Gitmo. And I was still feeling like the story wasn't being told enough. And this was a really interesting opportunity to let people have access to a location that was off limits to most citizens and press. It might have been virtual, but at least it was accessible.

[00:01:30.183] Kent Bye: I see. And so what was the process of kind of reconstructing this scene that you had never seen before and the reaction that you had with people experiencing that?

[00:01:38.905] Nonny de la Pena: Because I'd done this documentary film that I'd directed and produced, I had done a lot of research and work about Gitmo. So I had a lot of content, both in terms of photographs, interviews with soldiers, interviews with detainees. So I'd gathered quite a bit of material prior to starting construction. But I think one of the things that struck me the most was the lack of habeas corpus, the sense that you really had no rights when you went to Gitmo. and that this was constitutionally, to me, such a violation of everything that I understood to be true about this country. And in fact, I had military jags, you know, the military lawyers who were defending these individuals, these so-called detainees, these prisoners, who would say the same thing to me. So using all that material and using that particular point, normally when you'd walk around Second Life, you would have free ability to let your avatar roam wherever they wanted to go. But when you came into our space, you would put on a HUD, and you would click on this one particular spot, which was in the inside of a C-17 transport plane replica, and your avatar would be immediately bound. And then you would see this black hood drop over the vision of your avatar, which essentially would fill up your entire screen. And at first people think, like, oh, what's gone wrong here? But then you'd see these bits of white light, and you'd hear this noise. And the idea was, this is what it was like for the detainees who were being hooded and then brought, shackled, to Camp X-Ray. And when the black hood was removed, you would find that you were inside a cage, a replica of Camp X-Ray. Camp X-Ray was originally dog kennels, but they had prisoners in the kennels. Until there was such a public outcry, they had to move them and make some other kind of facilities. And then the Defense Department pulled all the footage away and got it out of the public's eye, but on our virtual Guantanamo Bay location, Second Life, all that footage was still there. So in some ways it also became like a historical repository.

[00:03:30.398] Kent Bye: And when you say HUD, is that a 3D rendering of Second Life, or is that just a term within Second Life where you're still seeing it on a 2D screen?

[00:03:38.011] Nonny de la Pena: It's a term called heads-up display, which was basically a bit of code that allowed us to take control of your avatar. So by clicking on it, you gave up control of your avatar, essentially. And it was just like a little control up in the right-hand screen. And once you clicked on it, then it wasn't 2D. It stayed 3D in the sense of you weren't wearing goggles at that point. Everything was still on the screen. But the reactions were sort of astonishing to me. And one time, I even had this woman, and she, I presume, was a woman. And this green sharp suit with like ice skates and all these kind of blades poking out. And she was like so upset by the bill, she didn't even go through it, but she was so upset by the bill that she took out a baseball bat and started slapping her hand if she was going to hit me with it because she felt that my defense of these individuals at Gitmo was so politically, you know, wrong. Whereas we were on very different sides of the fence about this, but it had that kind of visceral effect on people.

[00:04:30.348] Kent Bye: I see. So even though it was a 2D experience, they still got the sense of whereas in Second Life you normally would have complete control, you're sort of creating this interaction where you're taking away that control.

[00:04:41.165] Nonny de la Pena: That's exactly right. Because people get so affiliated with their avatar and get so connected to their avatar, the actual sense of being bound and having this hood dropped over them became very visceral for people. And it was my first understanding how people can get so connected to the digital representation of themselves. And I rebuilt it in Unity, and I still think that by seeing your body bound, which is the body that you're affiliated with through this avatar, it really had this kind of amazingly profound effect for people. And then I started building using virtual reality goggles, and I can tell you what that piece was about.

[00:05:14.266] Kent Bye: Yeah, so what were some of the first projects where you started to go from Second Life to these head-mounted displays in virtual reality, which in the timeline speaking was way before Oculus Rift even came about?

[00:05:25.732] Nonny de la Pena: So the next piece that I built, I was actually invited to a lab in Barcelona by a guy named Mel Slater. His lab's called the Event Lab, and he runs it with his neuroscience wife, Maria Vives Sanchez. And we built a piece where we put you in a body of a detainee in a stress position. And we're using the goggles called the Wide Five, and I'll tell you a little bit more about that in a minute. But in that particular piece was kind of astonishing, because we had people wearing a breathing strap, and they were sitting upright in a chair, but they had their hands behind their back, and that was it. But they were upright and yet when they saw, when the experience began, sorry, they were also wearing a breathing strap so that their breath could be paralleled by a virtual avatar that they saw in a mirror when they went inside. They would look in this mirror and this avatar in a stressed position, all hunched over in a stressed position, moved whenever they moved their head and was breathing at the same time as they were. And they'd look down and they'd see their knees were hunched up. And in the meantime, we did a binaural recording of a recreation of an interrogation of a man named al-Qahtani that the Bush administration said had been tortured. So I took real logs and created this interrogation that you heard, and in the meantime you see your body in this stretched position. And I have to tell you, that kind of blew my mind because everybody who came out of it would say, well, what was your body like? And they would hunch over. as if they were in the stress position when they've been sitting upright. And I began to recognize how quickly, you know, one could adapt and adopt to a virtual body, especially wearing head-mounted display goggles and with good audio. So that was kind of when I became hooked. And I weaseled my way into a lab at USC, which was actually down the street instead of having to go to Barcelona. It's just that the first guy I worked with, Mel Slater, who I'm still working with, is really a god in the virtual reality field. He's been doing this since, you know, VR1, and he's just brilliant. So once I worked with him, I had more acceptance in the VR research community. And I was invited to a lab in L.A. called the Institute for Creative Technologies, which is a University of Southern California virtual reality research lab. And that's run by a guy named Mark Bolles, and Mark was actually the guy who created the Wide 5. head-mounted display goggles. But the Y-5, there are very few left in the world, and only one left at the lab in L.A. And Palmer Luckey had found a pair of Mark's old goggles at a fire sale from a bankrupt hospital. And he called Bullis and said, you know, hey man, how did these work, or whatever, and Bullis invited him over, and pretty soon Palmer was there building goggles and trying to make lower-cost goggles. And I was there, it was this crazy summer where a lot of really brilliant people all ended up in this particular lab. At that point I was working as a research fellow at the USC School of Communications and Journalism. You know, I was a research fellow in immersive journalism, that's what I was calling myself at that point. And there was a class on hunger for the journalism school students in which they were doing traditional reporting. They were doing a news piece for the web, and audio for the web, and video for the web. And I wanted to build an immersive piece because I really wanted people to feel what it was like for people who are invisible. Those waiting in the food bank line, they're invisible. How do I make them more visible? And as you can see, I'm very always drawn to human rights stories. So I went out and recorded audio at food banks. The one thing I have to say that these pieces, they don't work unless the audio is good. But with the audio, you can get away with a lot of problematic graphics. You can't with bad audio. So I went out with my intern and we were out recording audio at food banks until a day when she came back to my office and was just in tears because she just witnessed a man who had diabetes and he was waiting in this long line for food and this woman at this church was overwhelmed. I mean, she's literally yelling, there's too many people, there's too many people and she can't feed them all and the line's not moving fast enough and he goes into a coma because he doesn't get food in time. And using that audio, I rebuilt the entire street scene, and you become a witness as this man collapses. And it got into the Sundance Film Festival, into New Frontiers for 2012. But the problem was, there's only that one pair of wide five goggles. What was I going to do? So there was a real push on Palmer to get goggles ready. And it's funny, I just searched my email, which I hadn't done, of old emails from 2011 between Palmer and myself and a guy named Evan Suma and Ty Phan and all of us trying to get these goggles ready so that would work. And you know, there's distortion problems that would make you feel, you know, I used to call it the drunken sailor effect. And you know, you feel woozy and walking weird. And that was a distortion code, not so much a hardware issue. And I wouldn't let the goggles leave. We had a truck ready to drive the equipment to Sundance, and I wouldn't let them leave until like, it was late, like 10 p.m. at night to drive to Utah. Poor Tracy McSherry, the owner of Faze Space, the tracking equipment, he actually drove the truck and he waited patiently for that to happen. So the first night, we go to opening night, and I'm terrified, right? Nobody's ever done this before. And I can play some audio, or I'll give you the audio piece so you can record it in. So what'd you think? Oh, you're crying. You're crying. Gina, you're crying. Of me talking to this woman and she takes off the goggles and she goes, oh my God. And you can hear my voice. I'm saying, Gina, you're crying. Oh my God, you're crying. And I had more people in tears. I had people on the ground trying to hold the seizure victim's head. I had people, when he falls, reach in their pocket and yank out their phone to dial 911 before they realized that they were just in a virtual reality construct. I mean, the power of VR, it really blew my mind that night. And again, that was like, OK, this is it. This is where I need to be working. I don't want my audience just sitting in some seat. I want them on scene. So Palmer came to that festival to help, crashed in my hotel room. He very kindly drove the equipment all the way back across the country for me. And that was just the start. And that was January of 2012. And then came the Kickstarter, right, in September. And then everything's changed. And once the Facebook sale came, I texted Palmer and just said, thank you. I know there's had some pushback on this, but for all that's been working there, all of a sudden, you know, VR, which in many people's minds was a dirty word. It was like a bubble that popped. It got the kind of legs again that it's going to keep allowing me to make great stories. In the meantime, after Hunger, I ended up pursuing my doctorate at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. And there's a lab on campus, which I'm the director of, and The dean of the cinema school, Elizabeth Daly, brought in to my lab the head of the World Economic Forum last fall and he immediately took off the goggles for experiencing the piece I call Hunger in Los Angeles and turned to me and said, can you build something about Syria for our January conference. So normally it started out in my pieces where I found the audio material first but in this case I had to go the other direction and I did two things. I began to scour for an emotional moment but I also sent a team to a refugee camp in a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq in the Kurdish area in Iraq where there's a refugee camp you know in this camp of 60,000 people there's 30,000 kids because children have been the most affected by this And then we found this very powerful moment where a young girl is singing on the street in Aleppo, and then a mortar shell hits. And we had to go back and find original footage of the buildings before they were damaged. We had to find aftermath video and audio, and we rebuilt the scene. And in this piece, we put you there when the bomb hits in Aleppo, and then I take you to a refugee camp among all the kids. That piece had an incredible reception at the World Economic Forum. It had everybody from John McCain to Peter Gabriel go through, and the outpouring afterwards was astonishing. People setting up direct-deduct accounts to children in refugee camps, for Syrian children. Just an astonishing amount of stuff came out of that event. And then the next piece that I had to finish, which I'd started prior to Assyria, I put you on the border when the border patrol beat and tased a man to death. And they claimed he had been resisting, etc., etc. But in fact, grainy cell phone material had been captured that showed otherwise. And in that piece I actually brought one of the witnesses who recorded that material to our lab and I body scanned her and I face scanned her and then I motion captured her and facial captured her reliving her own night so that when you're standing next to her every motion that she's making is her own, is not something I recreated but her own recreation in memory of the event. So these are the kind of pieces I'm making. I've just been commissioned by Standard Chartered Bank to build a big piece for their Formula One event, which will be using both some of the racetrack that's there, but also some really interesting material from real events around Formula One, down in the pit after a crash, so that we're intertwining sort of doc and fiction together in that piece. And more and more interest in how do we build these kind of experiences that are fully tracked, full-body experiences. It's kind of an IMAX version versus a cell phone, you know, or whatever. There's sort of a tier between the Oculus, which is more of a sit-down consumer level, and then these kind of higher-end ones where I'm still building my own goggles. kind of based on what Palmer originally started, trying to make them a little bit lighter, but still with a very wide angle, field of view, and fully tracked so you can walk around and not have to have any controls or anything in your hand, but you just go in and you're there. It's kind of amazing, you know, when people put on the goggles, they shriek. I've had more than one person just... Because all of a sudden your body has a duality of presence. You know you're here, but you actually feel like you're there too. And that sense is so transformative, that feeling like you could be in this other place, it's impossible to describe. But once you've done it, you understand the whole possibility of storytelling that is about to explode into the world.

[00:15:19.725] Kent Bye: Wow, and so what do you think are some key components of, you know, moving from 2D to 3D immersive? Like, how is storytelling different in terms of, you know, making these interactive experiences?

[00:15:31.075] Nonny de la Pena: There is kind of a world of difference because we're still thinking with like, you know, what's the pan? What's the close-up? You know, what's the montage, right? And because these are the kind of things that if you whip people's bodies around, you can make them nauseous. So you're thinking about, you know, what can your body really do? You know, you could fly and there's some certain things like that that are not bad things to be able to do in VR, but we're still writing the language of how we do that narrative. The main things that I really work on is, I can tell you I have real trouble recognizing faces and I'm not very good at names, but if you take me to a place once, I can go there again because I have a real sense of the spatial. I have a good spatial memory and a sense of my body in space. And I think that's the first thing you have to start off when you think about these stories. What is it like to have your body in that actual space? And then you can write your story around you. And you know, I have to tell you that virtual humans are still your most expensive piece of this. Models are getting easier and easier. I think you might have seen here, there was like the Matterhorn. Things that do quick scanning of rooms for you, where you can have a model perhaps two-thirds or almost, you know, three-quarters of the way complete that you could throw to your artist and have finished in a day. Things that used to take weeks. But your humans are still tough. I'm really kicking really hard at the facial capture piece right now and trying to get natural feel to faces that doesn't break the immersion. In some ways, it's a bit like, you know, you've got to think about the sort of psycho shower scene. You don't need to see her slash to death to feel it. You know, when you see the shark in Jaws, it kind of ruins it. So you just have to think about allowing people to feel a story and not necessarily have to reproduce every piece of it when maybe the tools aren't quite there yet. They will be. I think we'll get to super high fidelity very quickly. But in the meantime, there's plenty of ways to tell these really powerful stories. I mean, I just got back from the Tribeca Film Festival, and again, I could show you footage after footage of people crying, upset. The experiences are very intense. And to be there, both for fictional stories and for non-fiction, is just a feature of storytelling.

[00:17:32.911] Kent Bye: Why do you think that empathy is so much stronger going into 3D immersive versus just seeing the exact same thing maybe play out in 2D?

[00:17:40.750] Nonny de la Pena: I think when you're on scene as an event transpires... Let me back up a little bit. So one of my audience members, who was actually a reporter also, and she said to me afterwards, I can't stop thinking about what I experienced in your piece. She said, I feel like the memories in my whole body. And I think that that's a real visceral difference in why there's an empathetic response that seems to me stronger than any other medium I've ever built in. I mean, you remember I did film and TV and, you know, I've done a lot of other print and the reactions to me are just unbelievable. And it may be that once you feel like you're there, that the experience is felt through your whole body rather than just seen through your ocular system. And don't get me wrong, you know, we jump in movies. So there's a lot of work about, you know, the whole phenomenology of cinema, of the way cinema makes our bodies feel. But this, where you can walk around and move freely, you seem to feel the story as much as to think it.

[00:18:38.702] Kent Bye: And in a lot of these topics of sort of digging into the deep shadows of things that we don't necessarily, you know, kind of out of sight, out of mind, things we're not seeing, you're kind of taking people there. And I'm just curious in terms of what are the risks of people getting triggered in terms of like post-traumatic stress or putting people into situations that are potentially traumatizing for people?

[00:19:00.548] Nonny de la Pena: Yeah, sometimes they're pretty traumatic. I do make it very clear on any time I set these up, because they're set up like location-based experiences. So there's always documentation on the walls prior. This is what you're about to experience. This is what the story's about. There's no holding back on, like, there's no surprises when you go into my piece. I've already told you what you're about to experience. And then I have to let people make their own choices. If this seems like it's going to be a problem for them, that's fine. And I did have one or two people say to me at Sundance, Oh, I'm glad you told me. I can't go in. Something like that. And I think it's just the same thing as, you know, if you're going to go to the movies or, you know, watch television, people will say, you know, this is your rating or this content is explicit or whatever the case may be. And so I try to offer a similar kind of warning, but it is true that it can be very intense for people.

[00:19:47.926] Kent Bye: And one of the sort of tactical things in terms of being in a 3D environment and not having control of the camera, how are you directing attention in terms of what people should be paying attention to at any given point in time?

[00:20:00.122] Nonny de la Pena: So like in the real world, when people look up or standing on a street and looking up, you will go stand next to them and look up. It's very simple to direct people's attention in that way. That's one of the earliest things I learned is that other humans, you're attracted to other humans first and foremost. And then secondly, there's simple tricks like, you know, an audio bang to the right will make you look to the right or if you really need to direct people in the experience. But mostly I don't do that. Mostly I don't have to do that. It's amazing how strong the experience can be for people even though it's a unique experience. And I've learned that if I just create what happened and people are looking around and maybe they missed a moment the guy falls to the ground but then they turn around and everybody's staring that way and the guy's on the ground. It's still really powerful. I have learned to kind of take a step back and really watch as people let these stories unfold the way that they are going to let them unfold, like in a natural way. I mean, they're still very effective.

[00:20:56.054] Kent Bye: Are they in a way interactive in terms of, you know, are people moving around and then events are triggered or is it just kind of on the rails? It's the same experience for everybody. It's just what they happen to be paying attention to.

[00:21:07.585] Nonny de la Pena: I have put a few triggers in and I just don't know the answer to that yet. I've done both. I think mostly we just start the narrative and let it go because that's the way that it unfolded in the physical world and you can't change that. So I try to be respectful of what really happened, but there's room for the interactivity. We'll just see how people approach it. I'm starting to see people really working in this environment in a way that's unbelievably cool. making really intense stories. For example, I have this guy Oscar Raby, we'll both be at the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival. He made a piece trying to deal with his father was a young military officer in the Chilean dictatorship and a death squad showed up and made him sign the paperwork and then they massacred some people. and he was a witness to the massacre, and it was a very deeply affecting moment for him. And he told his son, Oscar, when Oscar was 16, and Oscar became an artist and spent, he said, feel like, you know, his whole life trying to, you know, 20 years trying to come to terms with what his dad had witnessed and what had happened. And then it wasn't until the Oculus came out that he could build a piece that actually let him come to terms with the story. And the piece is very powerful. So that's the kind of stuff that's being built in these environments and these platforms that just couldn't be built by trying to recreate it in film or write about it in text. There's something about asking people to go on the journey with you or be in the journey itself that makes a story, I think, I mean, the term is more visceral. I mean, that makes the story more deeply felt and understood. And because of that, understood.

[00:22:47.904] Kent Bye: So you mentioned the importance of the virtual humans. Are you using, like, any specific types of avatars? Or what are the software and hardware they're using in order to really capture that?

[00:22:58.558] Nonny de la Pena: First, I have to plug a guy named Diego Gadler, who's got a company called AXYZ Design, and he does all kinds of virtual humans, really beautifully made, and he donated all my humans that I needed for Hunger. And then for Project Syria, he sold me a bunch for next to nothing. So he's been a real supporter of my work when I've had very, you know, Hunger I built for $700 of my own money. I mean, I had no money to go out and, you know, what you want to do, news, documentary, and virtual reality. You know, people thought I was crazy. I literally had a colleague once stand up and say, you can't do that. That doesn't work. So now you see why I sent a text to Palmer about saying thank you. Anyway, so the other software company, I don't know, what do you call them? Mixamo, who spoke here earlier as well. That is a fabulous, fabulous resource in terms of being able to get characters and auto-rig them, and they've got their facewear now, facial capture, and all kinds of mo-cap stuff that you can bring together in Unity and Mecanim. So far I've been building all in Unity. I haven't used the new UDK4, but I'm hearing great things about it. But I've been building Unity, and Unity's been another great supporter. They donated early on to me a Pro license so that I could make these pieces. So, building on Unity, and then, you know, like I said, Mixamo. I've hired these promo cap companies and they didn't deliver good enough animations and I had to, in the last minute, pull together stuff and rebuild out of Mixamo and I could not have launched either Project Syria or Use of Force without the Mixamo interface there to support creating natural motion in my virtual humans and keep the scene alive. So, they've been fabulous. You know, we're looking at, at ICT they have a virtual human group and they donated the time to body scan and facial scan for my characters, for my main witnesses. A guy named Domi Petruro in Icon Imaging, he did the really great body scans for me as well. So I've had a lot of support out there in the community. I think because I was trying to do these kind of unpaid, non-fiction, important stories, I've had a lot of people go, what? You're doing what? Yeah, I can support you doing that. It's unusual. I'm not building a first-person shooter. And I'm going to say the thing I'm saying. I'm so pleased that I was invited to come and speak here at SCVR. I really am grateful for that. However, you may or may not have noticed that I'm the only woman panelist. And I know there's not a lot of women here. I'm trying my best to, and I can tell you, when I looked at the list of speakers there, my heart really sunk. It is uncomfortable. You can't help it. You're like, ooh, I'm really the only woman. But I'm old enough that I don't care anymore. I can tell you I've walked into classes where I'm the only woman, and I have felt really, really strange, kind of gulp. I actually left a class last year. I just couldn't do it. So and even as like I feel like it's unflappable as I am you just feel strange So I would really love to see more women working this field I'm trying to constantly saying if you're working this field if you're Maya max if you're you know, you want to come be my intern Contact me contact me contact me. I really want to bring more women into this world because I We're going to get a wider array of stories and it's going to allow VR to grow. It's going to mean that a lot more communities can come in and access it rather than just necessarily feel like they need to be adept at an Xbox controller to play a game.

[00:26:37.122] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I was sort of watching some trailers of a movie that I went to go see, and it just felt like every single one would be like, nope, that's not made for women. And it feels like in some ways, VR could be a medium that sort of gets away from the violence of 2D. You're kind of detached from it. But when you're immersed in something, maybe from what I'm hearing from you and your work, it does feel like this is going to be a little bit more geared towards that heartfelt, emotional storytelling.

[00:27:05.640] Nonny de la Pena: Well, it's funny, when Phil Brothdale spoke, there was a non-profit commons, was the first place he showed, where I used to hang out, you know, back in Second Life, eight or whatever plus years ago, and they're still going, they're still around, and that was a whole gathering of non-profit organizations who would gather every Friday morning in this commons in Second Life, and to be able to exchange, like, things to do in the non-profit world, and help each other, and tricks and tips, etc, etc. And I have to say that that was kind of ahead of its time because there wasn't, you know, all that many people and we all know that Second Life has had its pushback as well. But there are a lot of women storytellers out there now. And I think that there are a lot of, you know, I mean, obviously it's half the audience potential, right? And there's no reason why we can't have that wider, that stronger, that different kind of viewpoint brought into VR. And I do have to say, I was asked by the MIT Media Tech Review, what's different now? And the main thing that's different in VR now is that it's like a crowdsourcing experience. The tools are accessible, and people are building their own kind of VR. And I hope that the VR will welcome both gender and ethnic differences as we democratize virtual reality for the world. Great.

[00:28:20.454] Kent Bye: And just final question, what do you sort of see as the next step of where that's going?

[00:28:27.032] Nonny de la Pena: So I think that VR is going to be much like 2D in that it's going to be tiered. We're going to have the kind of IMAX level, which is I think sort of what I've been building in, where you're fully tracked and you can walk around and it's a more expensive setup, but it's got a really deep, deep impact and incredible experience. Then you're going to have the Oculus, which is going to be your living room experience. And then you're going to have your kind of cell phone viewer type experience, where you can pop your cell phone in. I mean, I know Palmer sees them crossing over, but I still think it's going to be less likely that people are going to grab out their viewers unless there's kind of a particularly designed interface that allows you to do both. in a compact way for the sit-down version. So I think that that's the future of it. Like 2D, you'll either have your TV experience or you'll have your movie-going experience. There'll be location-based experiences. There'll be the one that you do in your basement with your friends. But I think it's going to become intrinsically part of the way that we get story.

[00:29:21.449] Kent Bye: It's really interesting that IMAX being sort of like the full VR room where you're able to not be tethered, I guess, is what you're doing with that.

[00:29:29.128] Nonny de la Pena: Yeah, so that, you know, when I compare it to the IMAX, that's, you know, that fully tracked experience where you just walk around the story and you're present. I think that's going to be a, probably for a while to come, will be a location-based experience before you end up having that kind of into your living room. And best place for people to keep in touch? So I'm noni at immersivejournalism.com. So they can come to immersivejournalism.com and my company is called Virtual Pie Dog, P-Y-E-D-O-G.

[00:29:58.437] Kent Bye: Great. Thank you so much.

[00:29:59.681] Nonny de la Pena: Sure. Thank you so much.

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