Aleissia Laidacker is one of the biggest evangelists for the mixed reality experiences and games that are being built on futuristic “spatial computing” platforms, or those that take physical space into account, like the Magic Leap One Creator Edition.
As a technologist, she has also been working on the kind of tools that Magic Leap wants developers to use to build their augmented reality experiences. I went to Magic Leap’s recent event in Los Angeles, where I saw cool demos of AR and mixed reality technology such as Mica, a digital human; Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders, a zany game from Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital; and Angry Birds FPS.
Laidacker has 20 years of experience in product design, artificial intelligence, and game development. She worked on titles such as Assassin’s Creed while a programmer at Ubisoft. She is the interaction director at Magic Leap, which now has the tough challenge of convincing developers to support a platform with a $2,295 AR headset. Laidacker is also a big fan of immersive theater and escape rooms and how AR could be used to expand the experience of fun in the physical world and the digital world.
She believes that VR developers are itching to move beyond VR into mixed reality (MR).
“In reality, what a lot of those developers want to do is bring the interaction and the digital side of things to the physical world, because their intention is really–they want to interact with people,” she said. “They want to interact with the environment. Especially on the location-based side, we’re starting to see developers flock to the MR side. That’s the dream of what they wanted from the beginning, but they got to do a lot of their R&D on the VR side because that platform existed first.”
I caught up with her at Greenlight Insight’s Virtual Reality Strategy event in San Francisco.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: How did you soak in all the feedback from the event you guys had? What did you learn from the people who went?
Aleissia Laidacker: A lot of people were surprised by the scale, the amount of content and information we shared. Also, considering that Magic Leap has a reputation for withholding information–at the conference, not only did we have the keynote, where almost every partner was highlighted and we showed a lot of future work, but there were 20 sessions at an hour each. We really dove into the technical side, how things work in the backend, the future tech that’s coming online. We were very transparent with a lot of those things.
Some of the feedback I got personally, especially from developer-creator friends, is that if you compare this to GDC or VRDC, the types of creators that were attending were very diverse. Magic Leap is working with the entertainment industry, but also the medical field and lifestyle. People had a good time comparing stories and tips and tricks with each other. It wasn’t just the typical video game community.
GamesBeat: What is your role in a lot of this? In your talks you’ve been going into how to think about making mixed reality games. Is that your job, or do you have other responsibilities?
Laidacker: I always say it’s twofold. Part of my job is on the creative design side. Since I’ve started, my role is to work with a lot of our partners to think about, what is mixed reality? What type of experiences can they build on the platform? But because my background is as a technology engineering lead–my team within Magic Leap is primarily a group of engineers and designers. We work on a lot of the developer-facing tools samples, tool kits. After all the feedback we’ve gotten in terms of how we can enable creators, a lot of what’s been shared and developed is what my team has worked on.
GamesBeat: You’ve worked on escape rooms, I understand? Physical games, in-person games. I can see how that becomes enhanced by augmented reality.
Laidacker: Oh, for sure. I’ve done escape room design and immersive experience design, just on the personal side. I’m really passionate about immersive theater. By working in that space, especially with creators–there are so many limitations there. They’re constrained by what they can do in the physical world. That’s why we’re getting a lot of creators like Meow Wolf and even ILM xLAB coming in, people who are looking at location-based experiences. They see how being able to blend the digital with the physical can enable their creativity and art. They’re able to do so much more in a physical space.
GamesBeat: Have you also come to figure out what kind of games might work more as VR in location-based entertainment, as opposed to AR? Or mixed reality, as you call it.
Laidacker: For VR, yes, I always like to say that VR to me is 100 percent escapism. If you want to bring someone specifically into a different digital world, with no importance to the real world around them, then yes, VR is the medium a developer should be using. But so many VR experiences were done on the VR platform because that’s just the first type of hardware that existed.
In reality, what a lot of those developers want to do is bring the interaction and the digital side of things to the physical world, because their intention is really–they want to interact with people. They want to interact with the environment. Especially on the location-based side, we’re starting to see developers flock to the MR side. That’s the dream of what they wanted from the beginning, but they got to do a lot of their R&D on the VR side because that platform existed first.