Student Spotlight: Matt DiLallo - Builder of VR Casinos
February 15 2021
The XR Development with Unity course from Circuit Stream is a project-based 10-week live online course designed to help you develop your skills for a career in virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).
In this segment of our Student Spotlight series, we chat with Matt DiLallo to see how the course gave him the technical edge he needed to go deeper with VR technology and how it helped him land an exciting new job.
Like most artists, Matt DiLallo never imagined he could swap a path of creative flair and imagination for writing code, databases, and bug fixes. But the concept of finding harmony between coding and creativity was a tempting proposition.
Coming from an animation background, Matt had worn several caps over the years. During a spell in TV broadcasting, he began a role in interactive advertising, and that's where he was first introduced to the modern-day version of virtual reality.
“I was familiar with the technology back in the late 90s, or early 2000s, back when it was super clunky,” he recalls.
Although his childhood encounters with VR were when the technology was limited by its infancy, he admits he fell in love with it. Now, with the chance to use the vastly superior new VR technology at work, his artistic imagination ran riot.
"It reignited my desire to explore the possibilities of technology and to see what it can actually bring and immerse you in," he explains.
A Journeyman Searching For The Right Role
Since then, Matt was hooked. He pursued his passion to Toronto, where he worked at Secret Location, which was the first company to win an Emmy for VR. While there, he worked on a 4D horror movie experience that premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con.
But Matt wasn’t for sitting still, as he continued to seek out exciting new opportunities in the industry. At this time, Matt was working at Globacore, an interactive agency that built experiences for trade shows and conventions. His career took him around the globe, with one of his most memorable jobs setting up a VR experience in Barcelona for MWC (Mobile World Congress).
"It was a free-roam, multiplayer experience from Samsung, where we set up motion-capture gear on people, and the Gear VR on their heads," explains Matt, “Essentially, we let attendees become giant robots destroying a futuristic city!”
Even though he had the opportunity to work on a number of exciting projects at Globacore, Matt felt that there was something holding him back.
“I really enjoyed working on these projects and traveling with the team, but it was becoming very apparent that the lack of coding skills was really getting in the way. If it wasn’t a design task, I couldn’t contribute. It felt a bit disappointing.”
Eventually, he found his way into architecture, landed the role of AR/VR specialist at IBI Group. This change brought new responsibility, and with it, a new perspective.
For the first time, Matt led and consulted on various large-scale projects, which put his knowledge to the test. Suddenly, it dawned on him that he would need to upgrade his skillset.
“On a daily basis, I was speaking to an audience that had zero experience with XR technology. It was far more effective and impactful to guide this audience through a working experience than to simply talk about it. But in order to do this, I needed to learn to build the experiences myself. To craft the tools needed for the narrative I was communicating to our clients, colleagues and to the public. This meant I needed to finally dive into coding."
Circuit Stream Offers the Freedom to Explore More
Motivated to learn more about VR technology so that he could bring more to the table at IBI Group, Matt turned to Circuit Stream's renowned 10-week course in XR Development with Unity.
“It was intimidating at first. It really did feel like I was learning a new language. But I kept telling myself that I’ve learnt complicated programs and technologies before, why is this any different. The need to communicate my ideas outweighed the intimidating learning curve.”
On the course, Matt entered uncharted territory for most artists.
“Coding was always seen as a taboo for an artist ‘Why would you want to go and do that?”
To his surprise, he found the switch a welcome change. His thirst for education and new skills meant he found satisfaction where others may see coding as dull or difficult. Although he admits he is not an expert coder now, he relishes the challenge of getting better.
“Maybe it’s just me being a big nerd but I get excited when I learn a coding technique or get a tool to work through a method I hadn't used before" he explains, "I find it liberating."
Hitting the Jackpot to Prove the Course Was No Gamble
Coming from a pure art background, Matt says that some of his previous jobs fell short of his expectations.
“When you’re working as a motion designer in interactive advertising, for some reason everyone thinks, with a title like that, you can just deal with everything,” he claims.
“While I didn’t quite fully appreciate it back then, I am certainly grateful now that the real takeaway was that I learnt to problem solve.”
While he was comfortable with developing a well-rounded skill set, he kept moving jobs in search of one that enabled him to tap into the potential of the technology and his passion at the same time.
Although it's early days, Matt certainly seems happy with how things are going.
“The course opened up so many different possibilities for me,” he explains, "And it brought a lot of career highlights, helping me get to where I am today."
The Circuit Stream course gave Matt the technical foundation he needed to up his game, enabling him to broaden his horizons and understand more about the technical intricacies of this innovative technology.
“I still have a ways to go but I’m grateful to work alongside some extremely talented people.”
"There are not many jobs where you get to say you go to an office meeting in a virtual casino, at a poker table in outer space, smoking digital cigars as we all talk about upcoming projects, and development schedules" he laughs.
The Future: Our Imagination is the Only Barrier Now
When he looks to what lies ahead, Matt shares a frustration that many new students and thriving enterprises will understand.
“There are constant changes, updates, and new technology in this space, which means something else becomes obsolete.”
This rapid progress in XR can be overwhelming for anyone looking to enter the industry, as it’s hard to know where to focus your attention. He believes the tech will continue to evolve at breakneck speed, and it’s up to our imagination to catch up.
As for Matt, his wild imagination knows no bounds, and he is keen to experiment with XR in connection with IoT devices.
“I’ve always wanted this technology to grow beyond a typical consumer device. For example, I love crazy ideas like a remote mine with robotic mining equipment controlled by an operator with a VR headset somewhere else in the world. Seems like something not conceivable in our lifetime but that’s where my imagination lives.”
With his vision for the infinite, raw potential of XR technology, we’re sure Matt will go on to accomplish much more in his new career path.
Matt’s Big Takeaway
On the course, Matt got a handle on coding in Unity, which opened new avenues for him in the industry. He knew it was a must-have skill and is grateful for everything he learned from Circuit Stream.
Beyond that, he believes students should think about what they want to get out of the course, and more to the point, the technology itself.
“I’ve always told people that a HMD is really a communication device. Like a camera to a filmmaker. On it’s own the camera doesn’t do much but in the hands of the filmmaker it can really be impactful. So ask yourself, what are you trying to communicate? Doesn’t matter what your background is because we all have ideas and reasons for pursuing this technology. Put your ideas first and learn to communicate that through your growth and exploration of the technology.”
By clarifying your professional goals, Matt believes you can stay focused and motivated to get more from your education in this field. He recommends that students document their learning journey, suggesting they take short videos of their experience as they use the headsets and go through the process of creating a new world or application.
Are you interested in telling an audience your story through XR Unity development or learning more about virtual reality? Take a look at our course content and syllabus.
Want to know exactly what you’ll learn? Download the course syllabus.