Featured Friend of the XR/AI Pub Crawl: Victor Paru, ‘Idea Guy’ at Paru Digital

Featured Friend of the XR/AI Pub Crawl: Victor Paru, ‘Idea Guy’ at Paru Digital

I first met Victor Paru at our in-person pub crawl in Portland. I remember it was a warm summer day and we had all alighted at a large, wooden table outside at on of my local haunts near the river. Victor was an old pal of Billie’s, having worked together at Intel for several years. Victor was a believer in immersive tech and was excited about what the future held for immersive media and communications.

That was almost a year ago and Victor has attended every pub crawl since. I’m thrilled to share his expertise and passion with our community.

What is your area of expertise?  

I am fluent in creativity, and thrive when I can “SHOW vs TELL” a targeted audience about a new product, service or opportunity. Video and imaging combined with live events are among my strengths and passions.

Why are you interested in XR and AI for marketing and communications?  

Throughout my career, I’ve engaged audiences across physical stages and digital screens. As an AI champion, I recognize its potential and challenges. Innovative marketing and communications are essential in this new era, where good messages and experiences build trust and community. I think AR excites me the most within the XR universe at this time, navigating the real world with its digital potential. 

Do you currently leverage XR and AI for marketing or do you plan to in the near future?  

Yes, I am currently a SW Tech Marketing Engineer at Intel focused on AI technologies and develop demos for executives and events. I have also been running my own agency (Paru Digital) since 2010, providing digital media production and creative services. I continue to integrate AI into my workflows to advance projects and help clients navigate new tools and services to reach new possibilities.

Featured Friend of the XR Pub Crawl: Claire Weingarten

Featured Friend of the XR Pub Crawl: Claire Weingarten

I first met Claire, I believe, at one of my first XR Pub Crawl events over a year ago. I had just started hosting the virtual, monthly event for a small group of eager and enthusiastic marketers looking to leverage the power of emerging technologies. She connected with me on LinkedIn and quickly became an engaged and valuable member of our community.

I was fortunate enough to meet Claire in-person at AWE 2023, as she made the trip from New York out to the bay area to attend the XR Pub Crawl’s AWE experience and extravaganza. A two-day event that included a private preview of the showroom floor and a delicious and intimate dinner in San Jose. I immediately recognized her experience and talent within the media industry and realized she had a bright future within the XR and immersive communications.

I’m THRILLED to feature Claire as the very first ‘Friend of the XR Pub Crawl’, as part of my series dedicated to our small but mighty community. You can connect with Claire on LinkedIn and join our next monthly LIVE event happening the third Friday of the month at noon PT. Hope to see you there!

What is your area of expertise?

Visual media has long been an area of expertise for me, and with bachelors and masters degrees in cinema studies, my professional life has spanned a number of arts-related fields–film, streaming video, journalism and social media programming. Several years ago my passion and expertise evolved beyond video-based media to also include immersive experiences and emerging technologies that are creating entirely new channels of communication.

Why are you interested in XR and AI for marketing and communications?

I believe emerging technologies like XR and AI can be instrumental in creating the most meaningful immersive experiences marketers and communicators are able to design for audiences. We have not yet scratched the surface of what these experiential marketing tools are capable of inspiring in audiences who can be transformed by meaningful interactions with brands–interactions that are not possible with more traditional marketing methods.

What are your career aspirations? What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’t know that I can point to one exact role, however I know it’s vital for me to always be exploring new frontiers in emerging  story-telling mediums, experiential communication and immersive engagements.

Immersed Conference Spotlight: VR Artist, Stephanie Mendoza

Immersed Conference Spotlight: VR Artist, Stephanie Mendoza

Next week, I’m thrilled to be attending the Immersed Conference in Portland, Oregon. The conference is a two day event focused on immersive technologies like VR and AR and how they are impacting the world around us.

I’ll be moderating a panel discussion on empathy, empowerment and embodiment in VR featuring my colleagues and friends Donna Davis, Tawny Schlieski and Jerri Lynn Hogg. You can learn more about all the conference sessions, buy tickets and join the community on the Design Reality website.

Stephanie Mendoza, an immersive media artist and enthusiast will also be participating in the conference. She will be teaching a workshop on WebVR and PIMG will be demoing on the exhibition floor along with other Portland VR/AR startups. She was kind enough to answer a few questions on her experience with VR, Portland and becoming a dragon!

1) How long have you been in Portland? Why did you decided to stay here?

I’m coming up on 4 years now, I arrived in May 2015 to take some front end web development courses over the month. Then I got a job in Seattle- didn’t like Seattle very much so I went to Canada for a month and a half to visit old friends. I’d also made enough money selling drawings at an art auction to visit Portland again before going home (also my car was there). The intention was not to stay, but to spend two weeks with the friends I’d made and then move back to Texas.. well my student loans kicked in and automatically took money I didn’t have, leaving me with a balance of
(-$600) and no gasoline to get back. I would have been homeless, had I not been taken under the wing of a Cyborg Anthropologist I got nerdy with at a Hackerspace in NE called CtrlH. That really started it all.

2) Describe the creative and emerging tech scene in Portland? Could it be recreated elsewhere?

Portland is pretty special, though I’m not sure if I’ve traveled enough to know exactly how unique it is. The city is easy to navigate, creative and there are many programs that support practicing artists. I can meet people from almost every socioeconomic/cultural background, and not be restricted by notions of cultural bias, so long as a common interest is pursued. This place is incredibly community oriented, it seems that each group has about one or two degrees of separation between its members, that tend to just get together en mass, and hack at whatever they are doing.

3) What latest tech trends excite you the most?

GDPR. I’ve been an advocate for data protection since I was in 8th grade and social media was taking off. Specifically, what gets me excited is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe which comes into effect on May 25th- most importantly, it states that 1) Right of Access: Users have full access to all of the data a company has on them as well as how it is being processed, and 2) Right to Erasure: Users have a right to have that data removed. Failure to comply could lead to sanctions as high as 4% of annual worldwide turnover, so it’s not toothless.

Additionally, people are finally listening to me about dumping Facebook, and caring about how companies treat their user’s data. I strongly believe that this is the most important trend to evangelize in our modern tech climate.

4) How did you get involved with social VR? Which social VR platforms do you hang out in and why?

I started in Anyland, a social VR sandbox where anyone could make anything with unlimited resources (well, until their GPU choked on the particle effects). Anyland was and is still an incredibly powerful tool for rapid prototyping of ideas that just can’t exist yet in tangible space, but who’s presence we can prepare for in a simulation.

I’m in VR Chat a lot now too. I got sucked in to watching a bunch of Ugandan Knuckles videos over my VR deprived trip to visit family in Mexico, and spent months making highly detailed avatars (also converting my Anyland one). I still think I prefer the open and immersed creativity of Anyland, but I’ve been spending much of this year exploring VR Chat.

5) What do you see as the BIGGEST potential for VR, AR and immersive technology?

VR is an incredible tool for exposure therapy and it shields us from own own biases about identity when avatars come in to play, exposing something deeper. One of the first things that happened when I started developing for VR in Unity was loosing my fear of heights, which was pretty bad at the time and hasn’t returned since. I did the same for my stage fright, where I simulated the old New Relic office and practiced in there with my slides in front of a fake audience of zombies, tigers, and men in blue suits. This all gets amplified when it involves social learning and observation.

6) Do you feel large corporations such as Intel and Nike have played a role in the technology innovations happening in Portland? What role should corporations play in promoting innovation?

Bike town provides a good model of accessible equipment. Also Intel sponsors a lot of events like hackathons and small conferences/meetups (that feed us starving tech artists, many of whom us won’t admit to barely having enough to feed ourselves), so keep doing that!

7) Do you feel immersive communities and social VR can help empower and heal people or do you feel they will have more of a negative impact?

Both. Back in Anyland the crowd was mostly west coast, with a good amount of midwestern conservatives, and a few Europeans and Asians sprinkled into the mix. It was a small but tightly knit community. We actually managed to build bridges between the two wings of American ideologies (liberal redditors, and 4chan trump trolls) using the unlimited creativity Anyland provided us. We could coexist extremely well in a simulated utopia, void of any ‘economy’ other than a gifting one based on creative capitol. It sounds unrealistic, but also not impossible. I think this kind of thing can work wonders helping people get out of the mindset that everyone has to have a job, in a rapidly approaching post-work world.

That being said social VR can be a serious trigger for those with preexisting conditions who have PTSD from combat or assault. People in these spaces can be ruthless, but there are definitely ways to deal with them as an individual without getting the mods or the company involved. Trolling in real-time is a double edged sword and often the worst offenders are terrible at comebacks, which in my experience changes the game. Most of the other users will also have your back, you just have to have some thick skin, which comes with experience. It can be harrowing for a first timer.

8) How has spending time in social VR communities impacted you pesonally?

I have finally realized that yes, I can grow up to become a dragon; nine year old me is very pleased. I feel like anything is possible now, and I can test new inventions people come up with, before they manifest in ‘reality’. I wind up having these extreme experiences that can only be described as if they were a dream, since often it involves shapeshifting, and strange worlds/contraptions that exist as pure imagination manifested by data. Also shapeshifting was always my go-to superpower so thats a huge incentive drawing me back to the territory.

9) Currently VR is really only accesible by a small number of users – when do you think VR will hit mass adoption and why?

Probably once the next generation of headsets comes out, just like any other console or ‘gaming’ hardware. Go to goodwill and you can see the stacks of unwanted Wii’s and Xboxes, and on the shelf below them, every variety of mobile VR headsets.

10) Which local start ups or local innovators do you feel have the most potential? Why?

So I can’t answer this question in the context of financial potential, because the places I see the most creativity come out of, and have the greatest community impact, are also the places that earn the least and are burdened the most- especially during this current administration which has dramatically cut funding for the arts nationally. Take Open Signal and Enthusiasm Collective- they provide a vital service to the Art and Tech community, and without places like that many VR devs/artists would not have had opportunities to get started.

I have high hopes for our local hackerspaces as well, I want to give a shout out to CtrlH for the amazing things they’ve done, providing equipment for local creators, and bringing together a variety of interesting meetups- Dorkbot (robotics) and Exploit(information security) come to mind, and they have even supported Portland Immersive Media Group(VR) when we needed a venue.

11) How did you get involved with the Design Reality community? What will your upcoming presentation at the Immersed Conference cover? Who do you feel should attend this conference and why?

Luck. I met Joshua at Kent Bye’s house when Kent had a pre-release of Google Earth VR. A few weeks later I got an email about the new VR meet up, noticed that he was charging for tickets, and promptly wrote a concerned letter. I knew that charging ANY amount would immediately discourage most of the artists that I knew were currently participating in VR from attending, since even a small $5 fee is detrimental as costs add up when you include parking/MAX fares, and that resulting $10-15 is a grocery budget for the week. Yes we are that economically challenged. I worried that this would result in further homogenization of the group, creating the beginnings of an elitist VR scene in Portland. Fortunately that didn’t happen, and Joshua completely understood what I was talking about. He is still charging for tickets, but there are both volunteer and scholarship opportunities for those of us who wouldn’t be able to participate otherwise.

I feel like this conference is for anyone who wants to get the full scope of what Portland VR has to offer. I will be teaching a workshop on WebVR and PIMG will be demoing on the exhibition floor along with other Portland VR/AR startups.

Online Learning Strategist, Kate Pinner, 'Educators are curators of content'

Online Learning Strategist, Kate Pinner, 'Educators are curators of content'


“The attainment of knowledge is readily available by almost anyone with an internet connection. Educators are curators of content, providing access and opportunities for discovery of content, rather than the people who just structure and deliver it.”

– Kate Pinner, Learning and Content Strategist

Kate Pinner, Learning and Content StrategistLearning and Content Strategist, Kate Pinner, stumbled across my website while looking for guidance on social media strategy. Little did she know that after our chat, I would be ASKING her to share her thoughts on online education. I was THRILLED to connect with someone who had over 15 years of experience designing blended learning programs and developing learning strategies for diverse global audiences.

As an instructor who teachers both online and offline courses, I have a keen interest in how to best use technology to help engage students and provide value to my students. Kate’s experience provides valuable insights into how to best reach adult learners and the future of education. (more…)