The Hacking XR Speaker Series is an initiative of Hacking XR course (CMS.339/839). It is usually offered in conjunction with the MIT Open Documentary Lab and the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST). The HACKING XR SPEAKER SERIES is always free, and open to the public. This year, in the context of COVID-19 confinement, the class is entirely virtual. HACKING XR guests will visit through zoom calls - they will be recorded and shared


Free and open to the public.

Reservations recommended.


Jake Sally, COO - JADU

March 9th, 2021

1:15pm - virtually

​How does one create compelling and relevant immersive experiences? The immersive media are quickly expanding. In less ca decade, this nascent field has seen shifts from 360 videos, to 6 degrees of freedom CGI immersive worlds, and explorations of AI and 5G.


We here take a look at where XR is now, where it is headed, and what it takes to create (and pitch!) relevant, compelling experiences with emerging platforms, guided by our speaker, Jake Sally, COO of mobile AR music experience app Jadu.


Jake Sally is an Emmy-nominated producer, public speaker and entertainment executive dedicated to building the pipeline, vernacular and stories grounded in technology for audiences worldwide. He is COO of Jadu, an interactive AR company building widely accessible musical experiences with the world’s leading artists such as Lil Nas X, and out a slate of next-gen projects and partnerships. Previously, he oversaw content development at RYOT, Verizon’s internal content innovation company, focused on creating content formats of the future, technical pipelines and storytelling techniques as 5G networks begin to be widely available to consumers. He focused on collaborations with artists and technologists to alter and improve the way stories are told with next-generation technology including VR, AR, artificial intelligence, projection mapping, physical installations, 5G and motion capture. His key projects included a partnership with TIME Magazine to digitally recreate the historic March on Washington complete with a photoreal Martin Luther King who delivers the iconic “I Have a Dream Speech” to guests as part of a large scale traveling virtual reality museum exhibition on civil rights. He was also the creative producer for the United Nation's first use of projection mapping in the General Assembly as part of their Climate Action Summit held to galvanize world leaders to fight climate change like never before. His work has led to speaking opportunities both public and private for institutions including MIT, Johns Hopkins, USC, Mobile World Congress, SXSW, Emmy Television Academy Foundation, and the Sundance Institute's New Frontier Story Lab among others. His work has appeared at Super Bowl LII (2018) and is part of textbooks used at USC such as Crafting Stories for Virtual Reality.

March 15th

1:30pm - virtually



- Sonny Li, Codecademy

If the possibility of wide audiences to access content and tools needed to experience VR and XR projects has long been debated, it is also important to ensure creators and makers of all background can also access the means of production. 

How does one create XR content from scratch? Guest Lecturer Sonny Li will guide us through fundamental A-Frame concepts such as HTML primitives before digging deeper into the more advanced topics like building out a virtual environment and creating user interactions. A-Frame is a popular open-source web framework for building virtual reality experiences in the web browser. Based on top of HTML, it makes it simple for anyone to get started. 

Sonny Li is a Senior Curriculum Developer at Codecademy. He designed and co-authored content on C++ 2SQL 3ML 2hardware with Adafruit 4Data Science Path 1Java 2 and is currently working on Codecademy's first ever Swift course and VR project. 


Ali Eslami, False Mirror

March 29th

1:30pm - virtually

'VR is like dreaming with eyes wide open". Ali Eslami is a Virtual Reality Artist and Practitioner from Iran who has been active and experimenting with VR since 2014. Ali’s work carves new pathways into this emerging medium by developing interactive experiences, driving his practice-led research. He began creating immersive experiences without ever accessing a headset. His projects created from self-taught practice, went on to receive IDFA DocLab Award for “Best Immersive non-fiction” (Death toll, 2016) and the Gouden Kalf (Nerd_Funk, 2020)

Eslami's newest project, False Mirror, was created with the goal to  test out a theory about whether or not a virtual world could be habitable for humans. manifest as realities that blur fictional and non-fictional narratives, which strive to articulate possible futures. Ali compliments his process with speculative design and world-building, and is ever questioning the restraints of physical space, time and bodies. Besides content production, Ali is active in running VR lectures and workshops.

April 5th

1:30pm - virtually


May Abdalla & Kirsty Jennings, ANAGRAM

How do new platforms and hardware resolve obstacles that break down immersion? Exploring relationship between visual, audio, and textures in immersive content. We discover exploration merging outside the box interaction and uses (or misuses) of XR tech, rethinking the rules for immersive storytelling.


ANAGRAM are an award-winning creative studio specializing in thought-provoking interactive storytelling and immersive experience design. Each experience gets the audience to move, think, talk - and participate.  Perhaps you have a glimpse of being someone else, or you find a corner of yourself you had forgotten. 

From meticulously designed theatrical sets to ancient buildings to just anywhere outside in the wild - each piece gets you entangled with a place. 

With a background in documentary film, animation and interactive game design, the studio explores recent advances in immersive technologies - including VR, AR and other XR tools. 


Katayoun Dibamehr, Floreal 

April 12th

1:30pm - virtually

It’s not about which subjects fit to immersive media, but rather how you think of what is felt, experienced, and understood through technological affordances.  We here revisit the concept of the “empathy-machine”, with a walk-through of the making of award-winning experiences Hangman at Home (Best VR, Biennale di Venezia, 2020), and Minimum Mass (ANIDOX:VR Award 2020).

Founded in 2014, Floréal Films, is a content production company based in Paris, led by producers Avi Amar and Katayoun Dibamehr. Floréal is committed to discovering and accompanying talents with a singular gaze and strong ambitions, in Cinema as well as in Immersive works (XR). Since its creation, Floréal has gained traction with projects showcasing a clear desire to bring together formats with a defined visual, immersive and cinematic feel, paving the way for new distribution horizons. 

April 26th

1:30pm - virtually


David Oppenhein, NFB 

 Exploring our human experience and public issues in XR. What can non-fiction art form tell us about the way we represent the world, people, our past and future? How can we treat social issues with interactive and immersive media? What are artists’ and funders responsibilities when creating immersive digital experiences? 

David Oppenheim is a producer at the Ontario Studio where his recent credits include Agence (Venice Film Festival), The Book of Distance (Sundance New Frontier, Tribeca Storyscapes, Venice Film Festival), Draw Me Close (Tribeca Storyscapes, Venice Film Festival), the Webby award-winning Universe Within, the final chapter of the NFB’s Highrise project, and the interactive documentary The Space We Hold which was awarded the Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Award, the Best Original Interactive Production at the Canadian Screen Awards, and the Columbia University Digital Dozen Storytelling Award. David is currently producing a number of creative non-fiction film, interactive, and immersive projects and leading the studio’s XR lab. He is a past resident at the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab.


Pete Billington, FABLE

May 3rd

1:30pm - virtually

Is VR just a tool for entertainment? How does interaction, innovation and magic converge to create original works? Recent trends have been experimenting with AI to create seemingness interactions with virtual characters. The recent work Wolves in the Walls has been heralded as a hallmark moment for immersive and interactive storytelling.

As co-founder of FABLE, Pete Billington has explored how interaction, innovation and magic converge to create original works. His years spent working with, and learning from, the most progressive and technically daring filmmakers of our time have led him to virtual reality. In his recent work Wolves in the Walls, the director, writer, artist, and immersive storyteller explores how to emotionally bond with the audience through interaction, AI innovation, and a little fable magic.




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