HC UBC Profile: Juyeong, Yana, Theresa, and Daphne

Not many people know that hidden away in the basement of the Neville Scarfe building is a gateway to incredible new worlds, mind-blowing technology, and more than a few friendly faces. It’s UBC’s one and only Emerging Media Lab, a place where science fiction-level virtual and augmented reality technologies are reality. This week Her Campus UBC was lucky enough to sit down and chat with some of the hardworking students who are creating the next wave of interactive technological experiences. 


Juyeong Stella Oh 

Co-op Student

Program: Mechanical Engineering 

Hometown: Ulsan, Korea 

Current career plans: Software development or education


Yana Pertels

Work Learn Student

Program: Computer Science and Mathematics

Hometown: Omsk, Russia

Current career plans: Working on medical imaging software/data analysis


Theresa Kikuchi 

Work Learn Student

Program: Cognitive Systems, Psychology stream

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan

Current career plans: Possibly research, but still exploring options.


Daphne Liu

Work Learn Student

Program: Computer Science 

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

Current career plans: Software Developer


HC UBC: What makes working with the EML a unique experience?

Juyeong: It’s very student-driven. The major difference is it’s bottom-up rather than top-bottom. Instead of UBC saying “This is a cool thing, you should do it”, basically the students who were running and giving that manpower to make the project happen got support from the faculty and staff to make that happen. It’s been interesting, because we had to figure out how to do things, like Theresa and other members of AGDA (AMS Game Development Association) really worked hard to actually have a basic structure of EML.

Daphne: I believe EML is unique in the sense that it unifies different departments. When you think of “lab”, you think of people running experiments within their own lab, but EML is beyond that in the sense that we actually teach people what we’re doing. We carry on these workshops that people get to learn what we do. And besides from that we work with departments such as Geography, Land and Food Systems, Engineering, so we’re everywhere across campus rather than just downstairs right here. 


HC UBC: What’s your favourite project that you’ve worked on?

Juyeong: I’m working on this [Google] Cardboard app to basically re-map Main Mall. So, this is called “Main Mall Hustle” and—

Theresa: —Originally “Get Your Ass to Class”.

Juyeong: That is the subtitle! I’m still using that unofficially, but I can’t put it on the website. The premise is that you just had class at Forestry, you have five minutes to get to class but your next class is in Buchanan. You have to run, but you know how crowded it gets, so you have to dodge the people, bicycles, longboards, umbrellas and such —

Yana: Random construction.

Theresa: Squirrels!

Juyeong: So basically it’s a fun game for prospective students, to be familiar with the campus.

Yana: My actual project is the holographic brain project, but my side project is “Mindcraft”, and it’s basically a combination of VR and brain-computer interface — and by brain-computer interface I mean crappy, consumer grade AG headband, which is like eighty percent noise and twenty percent brain, probably [laughs]. The point of Mindcraft is to create an environment where some aspects of it change in response to your brainwaves, so like the sky will change colour, the background music will speed up or slow down, you can raise the ground and the rate at which you raise it depends on how concentrated you are, things like that. 

HC UBC: When we think of VR we tend to imaging expensive headsets and massive computers, and it seems very daunting for someone who might want to try their hand at being a VR developer. What would be a good to get into it or at least try it out?

Theresa: I think it’s important to make a distinction between virtual reality and the headsets. So virtual realities have been around since forever, like video games are a type of virtual reality — Skyrim is definitely a virtual reality — so the only difference being that you’re actually a bit more in the first perspective, but the actual development isn’t that different. You can take a lot of first-person games and then just put a VR headset, and it’s the same thing, it’s just the immersion difference. So if you want to get into virtual reality then I think the first step would be to get into game development.


HC UBC: Do you have any advice for young women who want to get into tech and development as a career?

Daphne: If there was some kind of advice that I want to give to a young woman in technology, it would be that sometimes we meet someone who has been a software developer for seven years and it gets you down sometimes, but there’s a lot of resources out there, either online or through school and peers, that if you work hard and are determined you can catch up and exceed in that field. I only discovered computer science in university, so I only have one year of experience so far, but because our university give us so much opportunity to explore different projects that there are many ways to get involved.


The Emerging Media Lab holds drop-in demos on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 to 1:30 pm in Neville Scarfe 1. They also run a variety of workshops to introduce people to the basics of a variety of platforms and development opportunities. Whether you want to get involved in developing your own virtual reality experiences, or are just keen to try out some sweet VR games, it's always worth the visit. 




Photo Credits: eml.ubc.ca

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.