Student Spotlight: Karen Vanderpool
March 26 2020
The XR Development with Unity course from Circuit Stream is a project-based 10-week live online course that is tailor-made to help develop your skills for a career in virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).
In the latest installment of our Student Spotlight series, we’ll hear from Karen Vanderpool to see how the Circuit Stream course helped her explore a field she has a deep personal connection with, and how the experience made her ready for a career in virtual reality.
Karen has a background in medical and biomedical communication and previously worked in 3D Medical modeling and animation. A few years ago, she took a design course, which first sparked her interest in virtual reality.
"I started painting in Tilt Brush, and that got me even more interested in creating virtual reality experiences, as I wanted to do more with my artwork to create immersive storytelling," explains Karen.
Specifically, Karen had a vision of creating interactive, immersive experiences to treat pain, anxiety, and depression. Over time, as she studied virtual reality, Karen learned more about how effective VR is for treating chronic pain, which is a topic close to her heart.
“My personal experience comes from taking care of my mom for a really long time. I've seen the possibilities of VR that could have really helped her, and given her a respite from her pain and her lack of mobility.”
As she explored VR, Karen developed a better understanding how virtual reality can take people places they can't physically go to. Before long, she knew she wanted to do more with her artwork. She just needed a platform to take her Tilt Brush skills to the next level.
A Clear Next Step with Circuit Stream
As she was already involved in 3D imaging, Circuit Stream provided a logical road forward for Karen’s vision of creating an interactive storytelling experience.
After spending considerable time comparing courses, Karen chose Circuit Stream's XR course, which offers an online syllabus and delivery that caters to more flexibility in learning.
Although Karen had no previous experience with programming, she had experimented with Unity before taking the course. During the ten weeks she spent learning from Circuit Stream experts, she worked on a ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ immersive storytelling experience.
According to her research, virtual reality has been proven to improve pain relief by up to 30%. The technology offers people a sense of escapism and respite from their condition. Karen wishes to give people with low mobility the opportunity to travel to places they aren't able to visit so they can step into an environment where they're able to focus on something other than their pain,
By giving people the ability to explore places they may never actually visit, she hopes to tap into this pain-relieving power of VR. Although she claims to still "not be the best at coding," Karen believes the course definitely helped her a lot.
“One of the things that the course helped me realize was just how much Unity can do beyond what I was using it for,” recalls Karen.
VR Career Taking Off With Oculus Launchpad
Driven by her passion for medical care, and the desire to create new experiences to treat chronic pain, depression, and anxiety, Karen's confidence grew with everything she learned with Circuit Stream.
In August 2019, Karen applied to the Oculus Launchpad program, submitting some examples of her Tilt Brush artwork, and some images from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ project.
After getting accepted, Oculus invited her out in September for a two-day Bootcamp, where she learned a lot about user experience for virtual reality plus how to form teams and work on a VR project.
Karen came back home with renewed focus. Soon after, she made the decision to work on a butterfly house project that incorporates a lot of her artwork from her Tilt Brush portfolio.
“I thought that would appeal to a wider audience compared to the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ project,” explains Karen.
Since joining the Oculus Launchpad program, Karen has returned to make a demo presentation to Oculus. For now, she is busy working on the butterfly house, but she is still keen to finish her ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ project that she started during the Circuit Stream course. Now she hopes to develop it for the Oculus Quest in a way that is more attractive to a broader market.
Beyond these two projects, she has ambitions of creating some educational experiences in the medical field. When asked about the future of VR in medicine, Karen believes we are only just getting started.
“I think the future is very promising in this field, especially as devices like the Oculus Quest become more widely available.”
Karen’s Big Takeaway
Karen had a very positive experience with Circuit Stream, learning much more than she had expected to learn during the course. One of the most valuable aspects of the course for her was the one-on-one mentoring, which made sure she never felt lost along the way:
“Just the mentoring, and the time that it saved me -- that alone was worth taking the course,” explains Karen, “if I had questions from the class that I wasn't able to work through, I could take that time to answer those questions, and then I was able to use that time to work on my own project, which was really probably the most valuable part to me.”
Further to that, Karen learned a lot about the possibilities of augmented reality and is now keen to learn more about AR development. These days, she feels ready for a job in VR. With her broad scope of general knowledge in multiple fields, there are sure to be a lot of excellent job opportunities in her future.
Are you interested in XR Unity development? Have a look at our course content and syllabus.