Celebrating Women in Immersive Technology: Q&A with Leila Amirsadeghi
What led you to a career in immersive technology?
I have been at the intersection of entertainment, technology, and event production since the beginning of my career. I started working on technology platforms in the late ’90s around the internet boom. When that crashed I found myself being asked to set up and run the licensed nightclub in London, with a 3,000+ capacity in 30,000 sq ft of railway arches under London Bridge. This started my education for large-scale consumer and corporate event production.
In this position, I learned production and operations on the job, producing corporate events during the week and club nights on the weekend! It was a few years later after I had moved to the United States, and working at a digital agency called BLITZ, that I had my first experience with immersive technology. We created an immersive experience for the 2007 Adobe MAX to showcase new brushes in Photoshop. We used a 75,000-lumen projector (huge in those days!), to project onto a thin mesh fabric that when painted upon with Wii remotes, which we programmed to work as paintbrushes, gave the perception that one was painting on air!
Tell me about your current roles.
I have had MESH as a business for over 10 years. It’s an XR consultancy where strategy and creative are handled in-house, and execution through a matched partner. MESH is a decentralized network born out of my strength to connect people and connect the dots, my own personal network is massive. We matchmake the opportunity to the partner, in order to deliver the best possible result.
I recently accepted a role for Microsoft, on their Mixed Reality team as Senior Program Manager for AltspaceVR. A community-driven virtual events platform that is made for creators, producers, promoters, and others in the experiential space. The goal is to empower the creator to produce amazing events of all kinds, bringing in diverse communities to connect virtually in shared space, and in a hybrid model with location-based counterparts. I am really excited to leverage Microsoft technologies to deliver exceptional events that deliver connection and presence.
What unique perspective do you bring to the field?
I come with a broad set of experiences having worked the spectrum. I have owned and operated venues, I have produced events for over 20 years, and virtually over the last year. I started working on XR in 2007, and have worked across business development, marketing, creative, partner management, production, and product development, for B2B and consumer experiences and products. I have lived at the intersection of entertainment, technology, and event production, which is what Altspace is, and have always looked to empower creators to be the ones creating and monetizing those creations. We are a platform, a venue, and a community center all in one!
Can you speak to your experience as a woman in the field of technology?
I personally have been fortunate in my career, however, it is frustrating to see how much men still dominate the tech space. In fact, we were just talking about how venture or tech-related conferences are skewed heavily male when it comes to speakers or panelists. What heartens me is seeing how many women are entering the space, especially in the Immersive & XR fields, and yet we still need more. The goal is to inspire the next generations to jump in and to encourage more educators to add Arts to STEM to create STEAM.
The community of women in XR has really grown as has our closeness, during the pandemic. It has offered up focused, regular times to connect, as well as fostering and growing community and friendship, which has been amazing. There are some of the most brilliant minds and leaders represented across the Women in XR, so cool to see!
What do you see as the future of immersive experiences?
I think everything is immersive. It isn’t just technology or location-based experience, LIFE is immersive. I think that in the future just ‘being’ is going to be immersive. When you think about how you design a house, a shopping mall, a residential building, or an office building, you need to consider what and when to immerse and in what.
What excites me is immersive education or edutainment. Experiences, that because of their visceral nature, leave people walking away with knowledge, whether they realize it or not. I mean, maybe we can actually save the planet with this technology, and it can be done in a way that people don’t feel like they have just been educated or tricked into, but in a way that is fun. Use entertainment as a means to inspire and educate, sugar-coated vegetables.
What impact do you want to make in the field of immersive technology?
My goal is to create meaningful experiences and inspire others to do the same. For me, it isn’t entertainment for entertainment’s sake or to just make money. My passion and vision have always been to show how this technology can be influential, impactful, and visceral. The technology can be as powerful as plant medicine, as can the journey or experience. I firmly believe that the content should be rooted in reality but fantastical in nature, the vibe, and the colors.
Do you have any advice for young girls interested in pursuing immersive technology?
My advice for any woman, not just in the field of technology, is to not be afraid of putting what you want out in the universe. Say it out loud and put it down on paper. You can make dreams come true, you can manifest your path.
The field of technology has opened up so many new roles and job opportunities. It’s a very creative space and it’s a creator’s space. Immersive content deserves the female narrative!
Leila Amirsadeghi Bio
Leila has over 20 years in Entertainment, Technology & Event Production developing digital products across mobile, web, OTT, AR & VR, while launching award-winning marketing campaigns for brands and startups. Her experience includes working with Microsoft, Enklu, Two Bit Circus, Disney, AREA15, Cleanbox Technology, Warner Bros, LBX Immersive, Meow Wolf, and Universal Studios.
Leila has produced large-scale real and virtual events and festivals, including BRCvr, launched several location-based experiences, and was co-creator/producer of the Unreal Garden, the world’s first mixed reality location-based experience. Leila’s career in immersive started in 2007 with a project for Adobe MAX using projectors and Wii remotes, followed by her first AR project for Playmates toys in 2008.
Leila is co-author of the book “A Handbook of Research on the Global Impacts & Roles of Immersive Media”, founder of XR consultancy MESH, a member of Spatial Activations, and advisor to Collimation. Most recently Leila joined the Microsoft Mixed Reality team as Senior Program Manager for Microsoft Mixed Reality at AltspaceVR.
Leila is a member of AIXR’s LBE Advisory Board and continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in XR. She is working on new pioneering location-based and virtual experiences due to launch in 2021 and 2022. Leila has been a Burner since 2002 and a Black Rock Ranger since 2007.