Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Jen (Jae) Salavarrieta is VR/AR/MR immersive designer and 3D artist. After she had graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology as a New Media Design and imaging major, she went to work in NYC where she has been for about 8 years now. Initially, she was working as a 2D visual designer but now her focus is on designing within the XR space. She loves to find solutions and solve problems.
Jae, what does your current job role entail?
Currently, I have been freelancing the past year working on projects ranging from mobile AR/VR to HoloLens. These projects entailed me in creating interface designs, spatial layout, user experience planning, 3D modelling for unity prototyping, animations for interactivity, and multiscreen interactions across all boards.
Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
It was definitely a challenge trying to convince past companies in how a non-developer or 3D artist person could be useful for any XR project. That is not so much the case now as this was more of a problem a few years ago. It kind of reminded me of a time not so long ago, when companies had a hard time in accepting UX as a necessity.
Even though that initial phase was challenging I felt I had an easier transition from being a 2D designer to now a spatial designer mainly due to my background in New Media Design & Imaging that was a multidisciplinary major. So even though I was previously working just as a 2D designer, I still had knowledge in 3D, animation, front-end, motion graphics, and design.
How long did it take you to be where you are now? What was the biggest obstacle?
I started on this path in AR.MR, and VR about 4 years ago. To be honest, I probably would have never begun in this career if it weren't for an amazing recruiter I had at the time. Since of course, I had no prior projects in that field beforehand, she matched me up based on my skills and got my foot in the door. The biggest obstacle that presented itself was that there are no standards in the UI/UX of XR but I see that as a huge opportunity rather than a boundary.
What are the projects you are currently working on?
I can't go into many details but it will be an interesting project concerning XR with the fashion industry. An exciting new take on how we explore products.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I was definitely proud to work with General Mills when I was at Blippar. With my team of 3, we created fun and engaging advertising Mobile AR campaigns right from their physical products. Projects were challenging due to time constraints but working with a big brand that had a huge reach was rewarding in itself. Also, I had begun recently giving talks to 2d and non-designers alike on introducing XR as a medium and how one might transition or even work within this field. I am excited to be sharing what knowledge I have gained and pass it on to others.
What does the #WomenInVRAR movement mean to you? What are the challenges of being a designer and a woman in VR/AR industry?
It means to be the start of celebrating women in our industry and to give credit to those where it is due. Giving voices and faces to those that have been the foundation of this industry, so it can be passed down in history. The challenges we can face as both a designer and a woman, are the same we have to face in any industry which is making sure we aren't faded to the background, that our voices are heard, and that we are right there in the front leading the charge and history will never have a doubt we were there.
What will be the key trends in the VR/AR industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
- With Mozilla browsers just being updated for Web Gl, I feel all other browsers will follow suite. With mobile AR / VR, browsers will be competing to be for this space.
- Unless tethered headsets will become less expensive or more accessible in public spacing, mobiles will also be the #1 space for XR when possible so leading to a surge of technology for that.
- I feel like we will be trying to eliminate typical controllers, and moving into more hand/body tracking tech including haptic gloves.
- I also feel Brain sense (EEG) tech will also be even more included in projects as hand/body tracking improves.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs in VR/AR out there?
Never stop learning. Even if times seem slow or down. Open a book, join a seminar, take an online course. Use your downtime as an opportunity to learn.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in VR/AR?
Cathy Hackl, Jacki Morie, Suzanne Leibrick.
LinkedIn: Jen (Jae) Salavarrieta
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.