Meet the Speakers

Some questions about AR & VR to:


Alysha Naples, Former Magic Leap

An interview with Anett Gläsel-Maslov

As a kid, Alysha Naples wanted to be an astronaut, a dinosaur or a Solid Gold dancer. Instead, she studied graphic design, moved to San Francisco (Method, Blurb and HP Labs) and became obsessed with interaction and experience. Until recently, she was Magic Leap’s Senior Director of User Experience and Interaction, a position which felt a lot like she was going back to kindergarten and getting a PhD at the same time.


Magic Leap is one of the most mysterious startups the tech world has seen in the last years. More than $1.4 billion were invested into an amazing tech vision where no actual product could be shown in the beginning. The most well known investors include Google, Qualcomm, Warner Bros and Alibaba. Founded in 2010, Magic Leap could convince the biggest players with its idea to create a device which superimposes 3-dimensional objects into the real world - just as likely as Microsoft's Hololens.

Alysha gave us the chance to ask her some questions about her thoughts on innovations, new technologies, new design, new interactions. So get your popcorn and some scotch. It's quite entertaining with her!  


Alysha, what is, in your opinion, the most exciting development in VR and AR?

I'm so excited that these devices are finally beginning to be available to general consumers! They're no longer just the stuff of science fiction; today there is an exciting range of options available, from the simplest and cheapest (Google Cardboard), through to the most complex and expensive (Oculus, Vive, Hololens). Later this year we will have Sony entering the ring, and with an already established install-base of over 36 million PS4s in the world, I expect that PlayStation VR will bring a lot more people into this space. Having a broad base of users is a huge win for all of the players involved, now and in the future, because until this point in time, the vast majority of our use cases for design have been completely speculative — we think a person might want to do this task in this way. The more people who put a headset on, the more feedback we will receive, allowing manufacturers and developers alike to make some crucial refinements to the systems. Pair that institutional learning with the fact that these kits will allow more people to develop experiences for VR and AR, and I think we're going to see a series of huge advancements in the next few years. It's going to be really fun to watch; I'll bring the popcorn.


VR or AR - which technology belongs the future

I don't believe that this is an either/or proposition. Each technology has strengths and weaknesses and is therefore suited to substantially affect different areas of how we communicate, learn, work, and play. VR lets you explore whole new worlds — opening up many avenues for creativity and storytelling — at the cost of leaving your old one behind. AR allows you to embellish and overlay the world you're in, which has its own set of challenges and opportunities. There are many unmet needs in the world, so I believe there is plenty of space for both.


Future of VR and AR – How will VR and AR influence our future lives?

I think VR and AR will enhance our future lives to the extent that manufacturers and developers are willing to learn from today's generation of devices. My background is in graphic, interaction, and user-experience design and education, so I believe that observing and listening is absolutely imperative to designing useful and efficient solutions. Understanding people — their wants, needs, hopes, and fears — is the first step toward crafting experiences and systems that solve real-world problems while supporting and enhancing people's lives in the here-and-now. I expect the success of VR and AR will be strongly correlated with how well those who are making hardware and software can focus on people and their needs as they design their products.


With whom of the other Digility speakers would you like to get a cup of coffee?

I don't drink coffee, but as long as I could have tea, a milkshake, or Scotch, I'd be delighted to share a beverage with nearly any of them! That said, I really hope I get a chance to talk with Astrid Kahmke (click here for more information about Astrid), Jaqueline Hen, and Ela Darling. I'd love to meet Astrid, because we share an interest in storytelling, and I'm dying to know what she has learned about narrative and story in uncontrolled environments like VR/AR. I want to talk to Jaqueline about spiderwebs — my partner is a scientist who has done a lot of work on insects, and I find the world of arthropods fascinating. Spiderwebs are fantastic metaphors for community and connection, which are major interests of mine. And I think that talking with Ela would be fascinating! It's naïve for people to pretend that these emerging technologies won't be huge in the adult entertainment industry, and I am delighted to see a savvy feminist among the pioneers in this area. Also, I'd be willing to bet that Ela is going to have some great stories.


What is the future of VR and AR? What will become different in the next 10 years?

There are many options for how this goes. The dystopian visions of Black Mirror and Wall-E are absolutely possible futures for us if we allow them to be. This is why I feel so strongly that the coming paradigm shift is a huge opportunity for us to collectively step back, as human beings, to assess how we want to use technology and determine how we can shape our tech to support our underlying humanity. Innovation is not about specs, and it's not about technology. Innovation is about what things do to and for us, and what it does to and for the world.


From the business perspective, which trends in VR and AR are the most promising?

For better or worse, bankability is not a big motivator for me. That said, in VR the "safe" trends seems to be in gaming and entertainment. In AR, the "safe" trends seem to look a lot like replicating the things we already do on our phones and computers in a headset; nearly everyone is showing some version of this, from Hololens' motorcycle modeling, to Magic Leap's shopping scenario, to Meta's Workplace of the Future. I expect gaming and entertainment to be huge in VR, though I think there is still a ton to learn about narrative and story in immersive media. But in AR, I think there are opportunities that are much bigger, much cooler, and much more disruptive than what is being shown today. We're dragging the old media's rules and behaviors into AR when I'd prefer we focus on making room for the new, which is why the inevitable "experience boom" that will happen after hardware and tools have been available to developers for a bit will be so fascinating. If VR/AR will have "killer apps," I hope they're something that none of us sees coming, and if these experiences are made by a few kids living outside of our usual hubs of tech innovation, even better.


What are you presenting at DIGILITY and how will it form the future of our digital life?

I will be presenting a talk called "Beyond Screens." It will focus on how developments in VR and AR technology will bring digital content beyond the confines of the screen and into our physical spaces — a blending of analog and digital worlds that was heretofore impossible. This presents us with a platform- and tech-agnostic opportunity to completely reimagine and redesign the way that data and digital information are represented and utilized in our lives. I am also speaking on a panel focusing on AR and VR that is being moderated by Monika Bielskyte. Monika is so great at connecting people and ideas, and she has such a fresh take on VR and AR. So I am really looking forward to that conversation!


Thank you Alysha, we can't wait to listen to you at DIGILITY and I'm sure it will be as exciting as if we are astronauts flying in space.