Student Spotlight: Jeff Kim
September 20 2022
Jeff Kim is an alumni of the Intro to XR Design course (now expanded to Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR ) course. Coming from a design background and specializing in animation, Jeff was looking for a way to bring the skills from traditional 2D world into the immersive environment.
His passion for cutting edge technology, and using skills for connecting people brought him to seek XR as a new creative outlet and also — starting a new career.
I’m a Creative Director for a startup company called Rocket VR Health. My role is to oversee the art direction, the UX design, the visual effects and animation for our products. The company’s mission is to solve the mental health burdens for cancer patients and survivors through the use of digital therapeutics (DTx) and immersive experiences using virtual reality.
In my spare time, most of the things I enjoy doing are still connected to technology. I dabble in VR games but lately I’ve been using VR more for physical health. My latest addiction is Supernatural VR: I’m transported to these beautiful landscapes while having to box, slash, dodge and weave for about 20 minutes as I get a great cardio workout.
I also like to read books on the latest technologies: it’s funny how there are many books now still trying to define what “metaverse” means! We’re all still figuring it out.
It was around April of 2020, about a month into the Covid-19 pandemic in the US. I had friends who were trying to get me into Animal Crossing. I figured since I haven’t owned a game console or any gaming device for years, being quarantined during a global pandemic was the perfect excuse to get back into it.
While I was looking into getting a Nintendo Switch, I stumbled on the Oculus Quest. I was a 3D Animator at the time, and when I was familiarizing myself with the concept of virtual reality, I got curious as to how animation in true 3D would be different from just experiencing animation on a 2D screen.
I was surprised that the Oculus Quest wasn’t so expensive and how it didn’t need to be connected to a PC. It looked unique and interesting enough while still seeming convenient. I took the plunge and purchased one.
So my reasons for getting a VR device was mainly for something fun to occupy my time with, as well as to explore other possibilities in my career.
It was right from my first experience with the Quest headset, the tutorial to be honest. I think it’s called “First Steps,” where this robot guides you on the mechanics and locomotion of using hand controllers. I was able to “touch” objects, throw paper airplanes, use slingshots, and shoot lasers, all while walking or moving in real 3D space. I distinctly remember thinking at that moment “I’ve missed out on years of this level of awesomeness!”
Jeff's Favorite AR/VR Apps
Any app that gets you to physically move is impressive to me. For AR, it’s Pokemon Go (which I still play from time to time). In VR, games like Beat Saber and Supernatural VR impress me most, not only because they are fun and addicting, but they can improve your health as well.
How Did You Start Learning About XR?
I started with watching tutorials and other lectures/interviews on YouTube. But I quickly got frustrated because I wasn’t sure if I was learning it correctly. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I just remember saving so many videos, going down the rabbit hole of recommended videos, and wishing there was a more structured way of learning all this.
Coming in Touch with Circuit Stream
I saw a Facebook ad for Circuit Stream. I guess the Facebook algorithms saw that I did so much google searching for how to learn XR!
I tried to attend every available free workshop. It was a way to see how knowledgeable and engaging the instructors were, as well as to get a glimpse of how things were run. And if the community was supportive.
I had a clear idea in mind before starting the Circuit Stream course. I wanted to make mindfulness meditation easier for people to learn. Meditation is something I’ve been doing for years and remember how difficult it was when getting started. As with a lot of new skills, the drop off rate is pretty high in the first month. The biggest hurdle for meditation is the visualization process. Virtual reality felt like the perfect tool to make meditation more palatable for the average person.
I knew that if I tried to learn VR all by myself, it probably would’ve taken me 2-3 years at best. It didn’t help that I’m not the best with self-discipline!
I also was learning UX design prior to joining Circuit Stream and wanted to beef up my portfolio with a design case study that utilized VR technology.
Jeff's App Idea and Chosen Course
I decided to take the Intro to XR Design course because I wanted to force myself to learn some C# scripting and prototyping in Unity. Even though my longer term goal was to get into XR design, I wanted the additional challenge to see if scripting and coding was something I can indeed learn. For my personal project, I figured that having some technical knowledge would also give more creative freedom.
My personal project was called “Prezence VR.” It provided the user with five different beautiful locations (but only one location was actually developed). From there, the user is placed in the chosen environment and he/she can just relax. There are a couple of meditation tools (eg. breathing guide, thought bubble) to help being in the present moment.
Experience with the Course
The most challenging part was learning to script in C#. I’ve never done any sort of coding before, and getting my brain to think like a computer felt insurmountable for me in the first couple of weeks.
What surprised me was how sometimes I’d accidentally get things right or get things to work the way I wanted to but I didn’t know why or how it was doing it!
Another thing that surprised me about learning XR is that improvement is not a straight line: rather, it’s a series of plateaus or steps. You’d understand one topic, only to be stuck again for days or weeks. Then suddenly comes the aha! moment, only for the cycle to repeat again. I’m not typically a patient person, so learning how to be patient with myself was a surprisingly critical requirement for learning XR.
Twice a week there was a live class where the instructor gave a lesson and live demos. Students could ask questions throughout the class as well as a dedicated QA session towards the end. These classes are recorded so there’s no pressure to rush and take notes: I think I went through each class 3 times and still refer to them months after I finished the program.
However, it was the 1-1 sessions that I remember the most. Students have a dedicated “mentor” for their personal projects. Tyrell Lewin was one of the most patient and helpful instructors I ever had. He made sure you understood the subject, remembered all of my problem areas from the week before, and even followed up with me to see if I understood what we went over. I could tell he truly loves teaching and helping people.
Jeff's Recommendation about Circuit Stream Courses
I would wholeheartedly recommend Circuit Stream to anyone who is serious about learning XR. In my case, I was on the fence mainly due to cost.
For me, I looked at it as an investment into future-proofing my career in a time efficient way. If I tried to learn on my own, it would take me 10-20 times as long. I’d be making mistakes while not realizing I was making them. I’d be spending time searching for answers, not knowing who or where to go to. The cost for learning on my own would’ve been lots of time wasted. And if you consider how fast the technology is changing, time shouldn’t be taken for granted anymore.
But it’s also important to know that it’s also a commitment to a journey that won’t be easy. For me, the challenge only meant that I was on the right path.
Your Future Work
My long-term goal in the XR space is to keep learning about how immersive tech can help improve people’s health. The medical and health industries are rapidly looking into AR and VR, and I’m lucky to be involved at the forefront. I hope to keep being creative, infusing art and beauty into people’s lives.
Right now I’m involved with creating immersive digital therapeutics for cancer patients with the goal of improving their mental health during and after cancer treatment. It is a heavy load to be involved with something that would be used at the one of the worst points in people’s lives. But it also shows the power of immersive technology and its wonderful potential.
Rocket VR Health Links