Ice Storms and Origin Stories

AlwayS go OUT in an Ice St0Rm.❄️

In January of 2005, I ignored dire weather reports and went to see a friend’s band play 🎶, only to run into an old colleague who wound up making me a LIFE changing job offer that night.

10 years later, I braved the cold to go see EMA, an indie musician, play a show at MoMA PS1 in Queens 👸 as part of the performance, members of the audience put on an Oculus DK1 and did a short VR experience. After leaving the show and walking back to the subway, I couldn’t get the images from the piece out of my head — at one point, I could have sworn I saw a snake 🐍 from the piece slithering around the train floor (then again, it is the G train, anything is possible).

I spent the next year learning about VR through the lens of the music business, a place where I had spent the bulk of my career. In 2016 I was on a panel at SXSW with a VR director named Kevin Cornish; a few months later I joined his production company. After a year with his amazing team, I decided to strike out on my own. ✌️

As I searched for the name of my new venture, my mind looped back to a talk I gave at VRDC and a subsequent interview with the New York Times. In my talk, I posited that bleeding edge technologies would eventually converge and allow people to have realistic relationships with holographic beings — and that would change the way we thought about intimacy dramatically. A few months later, the Times reached out to me for a story on Facebook and artist chatbots, but I went way down the rabbit hole during the interview and wound up quoted in the paper of record saying that one day we’d all be Friends with Holograms. Hence the name.💥

Getting it off the ground was a slog, with some projects that got within a yard of the finish line before falling apart. But then we had the opportunity to work with Accenture on a ground-breaking social worker training piece, and I leapt right in. The kickoff coincided with a long-planned trip to Japan, and I got up at 3am every morning to be on calls with the US and even did a call a few hours after I fainted in an emergency room while dealing with a kidney infection! But it paid off when, as I trudged through another freezing NYC winter day to get to a meeting, my phone lit up with the news that we’d won Best VR/AR at Mobile World Congress. A month later, the piece was a finalist for a SXSW Innovation Award, and it also led to an 18% decrease in caseworker turnover when used by the state of Indiana. 👏

As we grew and shifted, my vision became clearer. Worker training is so vital and so under-resourced; my goal is to bring a cinematic edge to VR training projects that leads to better learning outcomes and shows workers that we respect their growth 💯.

We’ve worked with award-winning directors and groundbreaking creative technologists to create these pieces for Fortune 100 clients, and we are also starting to expand into social impact pieces to be shown at festivals. No matter what we build, we want to push creative boundaries and tell excellent stories. ⚡️

Founder and CEO at Friends With Holograms. Adjunct at NYU. Bylines Billboard, Ad Week. Speaker. Ultrarunner in my spare time.

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