Kickass women of VR interview 8: Rainy Heath, 3D artist

"I cannot tell you how many times people would ask if I was there to support my boyfriend"


This is the eighth interview in our Kickass Women of VR series, meeting the brilliant women making virtual reality happen. This section focuses on the TimeFire VR team, who are busy building the world’s first VR city. It’s called Hypatia, and it’s ridiculously cool.

This time, we’re talking to 3D artist Rainy Heath.

Rainy has had a long career as an artist and started making jewellery at a young age. In her adult life she discovered 3D printing, using it to create jewellery components. Rainy’s goal was to make flash drives fashionable. As she began to research and visit tech fairs and conferences, she discovered virtual reality, and a whole new world opened up to her.

Her friend John Wise, who founded TimeFire VR, impacted her thoughts on what the technology could do by showing her plans for an explorer game in which people could create and share art. John challenged her to learn architecture, look into 3D art, and learn to use Blender. In exchange, he hired her. “So I dove head first into creating large scale buildings and I haven’t looked back since.”

Hi Rainy! Can you tell us about your first introduction to VR?

It was a rollercoaster. The environment was cartoonish, but realistic in that the sensations made it feel like I was actually on the ride. But it was my second experience that really convinced me of the profound influence VR was about to have on life as we know it.

It started in a room where you were guided to walk along a thin beam until told to stop. Then the floor, minus the plank you were on, dropped 50ft below you. As I stood looking down, my palms started sweating, my heart started racing and I realised that I was feeling the full effects of vertigo. My first thought was: VR could possibly cure phobias. I eventually lost my balance and let out a yelp, my footing became disoriented as I came back to “reality” and my brain adjusted to being on even ground while visually I should have been falling. WOW.

What inspired you to join the VR industry?

It was that experience that inspired me to create for VR. If one 5 minute demo could help me face my vertigo, this was going to be big. I could help recreate cities that people might never get to visit due to financial or medical reasons, giving them a realistic experience. In making VR a social network, you could explore these cities with people around the world, bringing people closer than ever without leaving the house! The possibilities are endless!

How has working in the industry changed your first thoughts on VR?

The first time getting an entire city built up was really exciting. We had recreated Amsterdam, and having been there myself, it was neat to share with people who had never been. It was then I realised, this is more than a game. I can’t wait to see where the company will go and what experiences we will create.

What would you like to see happen within the industry and in the next year?

I’d like to see the industry look deeper into the many facets of VR, not just games and demos. It would be amazing to take a trip into space instead of watching videos in school, thus actually getting the experience of it. VR could change education. VR could train soldiers, surgeons, firefighters, pilots, the list goes on. I want to continue to work in VR and be a part of something profound that will subvert the paradigm.

Rainy's first project using Blender

Any interesting lessons learnt so far?

The workflow is ever-changing. With the technology being so new, everyone is trying to figure out the best way to create content in VR. The second we find a workflow that is conductive, new software or hardware comes out and the game changes. Again.

Have you had any difficulties along the way with being a woman in VR?

Going to conferences used to be tough. I would be one of 5 women, maybe 10. I cannot tell you how many times people would ask if I was there to support my boyfriend.

What are your goals?

My immediate goal is to break people from their comfort zones. I want to invite people into the experience I have created and hopefully they will take something away and be changed. My long term goal is to create a geek army. I’d love to see more people, men and women alike, get into creating content for VR. If I can do it, anyone can.

With 2016 set to be a huge year for VR, where do you see it heading in the next couple of years?

I see VR taking over multiple genres of entertainment and media, as well as medicine, the military, and changing education.

Would you encourage other women to look into starting a career in the VR tech industry? Do you have any advice for them?

Women really shine in this industry. I would love to see more women involved. VR is a game changer, a title most women should feel at home with.

Which women in VR do you admire?

Nonny de la Peña with her immersive journalism. Project Syria was so powerful. I met her at GDC 2015, she was so kind and willing to share in the excitement of VR with amateurs like myself.

What have been your best experiences of VR?

My favourite experiences have come from watching people. I love to see their reaction. As for what I’ve seen, I like the explorer and educational demos. Just getting to run around in a strange land and learning is appealing to me.

Want to hear more from Rainy? Follow her on Twitter: @Rayknee13

Images: Rainy Heath