Architecture. Computer Graphics. Virtual Reality. A creative mind will always manage to find its way into the material world. Jimmy Giliberti, this week’s Glimpser and General Manager of Glimpse subsidiary PagoniVR, shares his map of creativity and tech that has led to solving 21stcentury specific solutions using Virtual Reality. 

Selena: Walk us through your education and how it played out with the technology developing at the time.

Jimmy: I’d actually originally gone for architecture. Back then architecture and computers hadn’t really met yet, and so I found myself moving from hand drawing architectural drawings into doing computer graphics. I was involved with some of the first computer graphics work being done at the University of Florida, and got out of school and started doing the first games for the IBM PC. I think that’s the thing, even though it was computer science, it’s always been visual.

The original King quest, and some of those earlier video games came through me. I went to do more compositing type software, did some work at Sony doing that. Then I found myself at Autodesk, which was the maker of AutoCAD doing first 3D Studio software that was running on Intel hardware. Almost anything at the time that was doing computer graphics was on SGI hardware, which was pretty expensive, and it wasn’t accessible to everybody.

VR, interestingly enough, was starting to come out back then in the late 90s. There was something called Virtual Reality Markup Language, and the hardware just wasn’t ready yet, so I had to wait another 20 years for it to show up again, with Quests and Oculus and things like that.

Selena: Why did you jump from a computer science undergrad to a Master’s Degree in Multimedia Communications?

One of the challenges that people have when you’re deep down into developing software for graphics or software for anything visual is you don’t always get a chance to use those products. You’re busy coding and you don’t have a chance to do color correcting or editing or compositing. I decided I was going to put that aside really get in to the mind of someone who’s using the product, and that’s why I got into it in the first place.

I went back, made some wonderful connections in the broadcast industry and eventually went and left that degree and ran a studio doing that kind of work. I went from being a programmer to being someone who was both behind the camera, and in some cases also on camera because I also went into doing some acting at that point.

Selena: You’re an actor?

Jimmy: Yes. If you look through the net, you may find me playing Bill Gates on Japanese TV.

Selena: Your subsidiary company under Glimpse, Pagoni VR, states that it “Builds solutions to facilitate 360 and 180 degree video workflows to provide innovative solutions by combining real world and virtual worlds together.” What does that mean?

Jimmy: A lot of folks who are just getting into VR now know of social VR spaces that are pretty much all avatars. Going back to what we were saying before about being able to composite real world things and computer graphics, Chimera at Pagoni, combines Virtual space with real world video. We can be in there as avatars, but somebody else can join us as a real person.

It’s especially true if who you want to see is a celebrity or some musical talent, where you don’t want to see avatars playing a song, you want to see that band playing that song. What we’ve done is grafted that video aspect at the same scale and at the same time as the other people being there, so it’s a blended environment that not only are you seeing the band play, you may in fact be able to go and talk with the band.

What we’ve done before, especially now with COVID, is create a situation where maybe I’m behind the scenes, and I get to actually talk with the band, as I’m talking with you now. We feel like we’re in the same room and we get to go and chat with that person directly, not as an avatar with them. And I think that’s the thing that really sets us apart.

Selena: How did you think of applying Virtual Reality I this way?

Jimmy: There’s an interesting creative aspect of what we all do, and it’s that we satisfy needs a lot of times. If you are a creative person, you know that you either want to build something or create it.

Lyron Bentovim, the CEO of The Glimpse Group, is also an instructor at Fordham University. He saw issues where they were having problems with remote students who might have been living in the Bronx, and there were some classes that were happening down in Manhattan. How do you combine a class so that the people who are remote feel like they are in the same space, and basically taking the same course as someone who’s there live? That’s what we really tried to go and solve, even before COVID, to combine virtual and real people together at the same time. That’s how we got started.

 Selena: How are you and your team dealing with being remote because of COVID?

Jimmy: We have an advantage that most of our tools are cloud based. Three days a week, the team is getting together in Chimera, and just meeting in a room that was set up for chatting. We can show videos, we can go live to show each other things if we want to and it’s as close as you and I just chatting from screen to screen. In this case, though, you’re immersed in a world that you actually just see the person next to you. I’m here in San Francisco, there’s someone else who’s in upstate New York, and there’s someone who’s over in Queens, and it feels like we’re in the same room. So that’s how we’re dealing with a separation, and it doesn’t feel much different. The best thing for me is that we’re using the tools that we’re building to interact with each other, so you’re really testing things them out that way.

Selena: What’s the first word that comes to mind about what it means to be a Glimpser.

Jimmy: I actually think collaboration. That’s what we do all the time. The second word is talent.

Selena: Describe what the world is going to look like in the future with AR and VR, in a short phrase.

Jimmy: Okay, maybe I’m coining something here. Persistent immersion.

Immersion is I go in, I’m immersed in what I’m doing. That’s temporal. What I might add to that is that we make the point where it’s persistent immersion. In other words, I’m living in it, I will spend more of my time immersed than I am now. It’s not a temporary thing.

Jimmy Giliberti is the General Manager of PagoniVR at The Glimpse Group. For more information on what he’s up to (or some tips on how to improve your acting skills), feel free to contact Jimmy on LinkedIn.


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