Seattle VR Platform Jobs

If the recent Seattle VR Hackathon is any indication, Seattle has a huge base of talented virtual and augmented reality content developers. Behind every experience is a suite of VR tools, from 360 video capture, to game engines, to 3D operating systems. Every major corporation involved in VR has a Seattle office: Google, Valve, Microsoft, HTC, Facebook, and more. The data in this blog post was all found publicly on Linkedin and company career and blog sites.

This is a snapshot of platform and hardware initiatives in the VR/AR space in May 2017. Current job opportunities are linked where available. If you know of other ongoing projects, send me a mail!

VR/AR Companies in Seattle


Much of Google’s core VR team works down in the Bay Area. Google Seattle seems to be primarily involved in the VR media platform for 360 photos and video. Products developed in Seattle include Jump, VR video capture and stitching technology, bringing VR to Chrome through WebVR, and other media platform work that lights up across VR endpoints (Cardboard, Daydream).


Valve did the hardware prototyping and platform work for HTC Vive in Bellevue. They’re continuing to build out their VR capabilities through SteamVR, and it’s likely they’ll extend the platform to new hardware partners.

Open Positions: Virtual Reality Engineers across input, graphics, tracking, audio, optics, engine integration, and more.


Microsoft has extended the Windows operating system and app platform to mixed reality through the HoloLens and the new Microsoft Mixed Reality VR platform. Microsoft is also adopting WebVR standards for the Edge web browser.

Open Positions: Product Marketing, Technical Designer, Creative Director, Optics, Hardware Program Manager, Systems Software Engineer, and more.


Facebook-owned Oculus has a rapidly expanding research lab in Redmond with over 50(!) open positions across AR/VR, research, hardware, and software. At F8, Facebook’s AR Building Blocks segment included research performed in Seattle. Facebook also takes advantage of Seattle’s VR expertise for React VR, the VR extension of their popular JavaScript framework.

Open Positions: Oculus Careers in Seattle, Redmond.


HTC collaborated with Seattle company Valve to bring the most capable VR headset to market, the HTC Vive. HTC’s VR Operations are based in Seattle.

Open Positions: 3D artist, UX designer, user researcher, software developer, UI developer, systems engineer, legal, marketing, operations, training manager, account manager, and sales.


Unity is the most popular engine for VR experiences. It can be used to create both mobile (Gear VR, Daydream, Cardboard) and desktop (Vive, Rift) VR experiences. Unity has a VR engineering team based in Seattle and collaborates with other local companies to bring Unity development to VR endpoints.

Current job openings: Software Engineer, Software Test Engineer


Amazon has various VR openings from online shopping to pets. On the platform side they’re working on a VR video “platform and interface for immersive storytelling.” The Lumberyard game engine also includes VR support.

Open Positions: VR Rendering Engineer, VR Software Engineer

Epic Games (Unreal Engine)

Epic Games builds much of the VR capabilities for the Unreal Engine in Seattle.

Open Positions: Rendering Programmer, Virtual Reality Programmer

Magic Leap

Nobody knows exactly what exactly what Magic Leap is building, but they appear to work on AR hardware in their Seattle office, with investments in “an advanced technology development team, developing prototype display, sensor, and user interface devices.

By Dustin Harris

Seattle Photo by Jill Clardy

brain-computer interfaces

Listening to the private thoughts of other people, understanding their motivations, passions, and anxieties has been played out again and again in fictional utopias and dystopias, and near-future stories. But mostly dystopias. Moderating one’s thoughts and considering the feelings of others before acting is a key part of a peaceful society. Luckily, we’re a ways off from confronting this technology. But we can cheaply read electrical activity in the brain. And it’s allowed for some pretty cool ideas and visions of the future.

The biggest impediment to BCI technology at present is the lack of a sensor modality that provides safe, accurate and robust access to brain signals. It is conceivable or even likely, however, that such a sensor will be developed within the next twenty years. The use of such a sensor should greatly expand the range of communication functions that can be provided using a BCI.

Any revolutionary new technology will pose new questions about ethical use. Technologies that monitor or even modify our bodies carry an even greater burden of proving that they will do more good than harm, but these ethical debates are often difficult to hash out before a technology becomes mainstream. One way to consider this is through extrapolative science fiction, like Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl does for big agriculture or John Scalzi’s Lock In does for brain interfaces. Scalzi raises interesting social issues that could arise from widespread use of brain-computer interfaces:

  • Is a crime against a human-controlled machine a crime against his person?
  • What would digital property rights look like?
  • Should potentially dangerous technology be made available to everyone? When do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Brain-computer interfaces fall into two categories: invasive and non-invasive. Invasive brain interfaces can produce the highest quality signals, but as they’re connected directly to the brain over time the body will reject the foreign object and scar tissue buildup will weaken the signal. It’s also a scary sounding idea. Non-invasive brain interfaces pick up weaker signals due to the interference caused by the skull, but give casual users the opportunity to try out brain interface technologies like electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Human brain activity was first recorded by Hans Berger in 1924. Ethical concerns have restricted further brain-machine interface research to animals. Researchers have tested rats, cats, and several species of monkeys. Some interesting research from Duke University demonstrated not only that monkeys could control robotic arms, but that they could distinguish between different textures through direct stimulation of the monkey’s sensory cortex. Involving all five senses is critical to developing truly immersive computer interfaces.


Just as the military sponsored octopus research in my last post, DARPA has been sponsoring brain-computer interface research since the 1970s. According to Wired, the research currently focuses on methods to enable “user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals.” Researchers found that that it is possible to use electrocorticography to discriminate the vowels and consonants embedded in spoken and in imagined words.

Interested in trying out brain-computer interfaces for yourself? The coolest toy on the market is the NeuroSky. For $79 you can pick up an EEG sensor to measure states of concentration and relaxation. NeuroSky has used this to make games, meditation tools, and even a helicopter that you launch using brain waves. In 2009 NeuroSky collaborated with Mattel to build the Mindflex, a toy that used focus to navigate a ball through a customizable obstacle course. Some critics have claimed that the Mindflex doesn’t read brainwaves at all, and that the ball will move throughout the course even if you strap the headset to a mannequin. This may be why there haven’t been more brain games released since.


The force is strong in this one.

I’m personally interested in how brainwaves can be used for selection tasks on hands free displays. For further reading/viewing, check out Pentagon Preps Soldier Telepathy Push or this Intro to EEG video.


I have an addiction. Every time I enter an independent bookstore, an almost physical force compels me to pick up a book or three before I depart. On a recent trip to City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, amid the counterculture and beatnik tomes I picked up a funny little book called Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea. And it was awesome. Author Katherine Harmon Courage’s bizarre juxtaposition of octopus as muse and octopus as meal played out masterfully. Courage entices you with a baby octopus cocktail recipe, then cautions that catching octopuses this size is illegal. She takes you to a Spanish cephalopod research lab, then the lab director takes you out to a fresh octopus feast of Pulpo a Feira. This style continues throughout: incredible octopus facts are contextualized in the wider ecosystem in which these creatures live.

Octopuses (along with cuttlefish) aren’t always the greyish white color you see at a seafood restaurant. In the wild, it’s often hard to spot an octopus even on a sandy ocean floor. The octopus can camouflage to match its environment in 3/10 of a second. This isn’t wimpy chameleon camouflage: in addition to color, the octopus can match texture, pattern, and even the luminosity of the surrounding environment. No wonder the DoD is spending millions of dollars to fund octopus-inspired natural disguise research.

As mollusks, octopuses lack a vertebrae and a central nervous system. Most of an octopus’ brain is distributed among his eight arms. Research suggests that these arms can communicate with each other independent of the central brain in order to make decisions and coordinate movement. This decentralized decision-making is another area of inquiry for scientists interested in decentralized neurons working together to coordinate information processing and control. Further research into search and rescue is investigating the octopus’s ability to fit through through holes an inch in diameter.

Other fun facts: The blanket octopus (O. tremoctopus) females can grow to 6 1/2 feet in length, while males top out around an inch. Octopuses bleed blue because their blood contains copper (not iron). They transfer knowledge through genetics rather than raising and teaching their young. Depictions of octopuses in Japanese manga can get…strange. Seriously, read this book!

*The plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi, thanks to its Greek origin.


What draws me most to science fiction are the characters and how they can seem so relatable while inhabiting worlds so different from our own. Part of what makes characters compelling are their unique histories and outlooks on life. Afrofuturism is the African experience told through literature, visual arts, or music as liberation. The far future provides a place to explore African and African American culture without slavery, systemic inequality, or racism. It has produced musicians such as Sun Ra and George Clinton, and influential writers like Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany.

Afrofuturism is also the history and the future of African invention and innovation. Egypt created pyramids, written language, and wigs.  Modern day African scientists have made advances in bioengineering, probability theory, and nuclear physics. Despite these accomplishments, popular opinion often recognizes black cultural achievements in music and art without recognizing scientific achievements. Afrofuturism emphasizes the breadth of black contributions to society.

Olivia Butler

Octavia Butler, The Grand Dame of Science Fiction. Known for Lilith’s Brood, Kindred, and the Parables series

Science Fiction studies possible futures from the lense of modern society. Some of my favorite speculative fiction is written by Afrofuturists: Parable of the Talents by Olivia Butler and Trouble on Triton by Samuel Delany. Triton explores various facets of a utopia within a libertarian government. Citizens of Triton can change their physical appearance, gender, and even their likes and dislikes. This allows the main character to explore a radically free society where you can have anything you want, and how this can lead to narcissism and discontent. Parable of the Talents is a deep study of society, race, slavery, and religious extremism in a post-apocalyptic America. Butler and Delany explore what race will mean in America’s future and come to very different conclusions.

My first introduction to Afrofuturism, before I had ever heard the term, was Janelle Monae. Monae is a funk, soul, and R&B singer from Kansas City living in a robotic future she calls Metropolis. Her “Many Moons” short film/music video shows Monae strutting down the runway dressed as a variety of robotic slaves at auction. Prices hover above the androids as they slink down the catwalk and gleeful audience members place bids. In the background Monae sings:

I keep my feet on solid ground and use my wings when storms come around
I keep my feet on solid ground for freedom
You’re free but in your mind, your freedom’s in a bind

Janelle Monae ends the song with a list of many of society’s ills: drugs, war, death, and even Jim Crow laws–then concludes that by coming together and striving for a new future “the old man dies and then a baby’s born” and the listener can begin to imagine a life less burdened by these events.

An intriguing idea proposed in Ytasha Womack’s book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture is that blackness itself is a technology. In the past, Womack observes, blackness as technology has been used against people as way of restricting movement, access, and privileges. By understanding how this technology can be used as a tool for “defining and redefining the image,” Afrofuturists can create a new world that exists now only in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. Ultimately, Afrofuturists are aware of the past but hopeful for a future severed from the structural limitations of modern society. Science Fiction is about imagining a different world. Afrofuturism is also about imagining a different world: one where the playing field is level and the future can belong to anyone who will work for it.

Pumzi movie

Pumzi, a scifi short film from Kenya

Other Afrofurist works:

W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Comet. Du Bois was a co-founder of the NAACP. The Comet uses planetary impact to punch reset on race relationships.

George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic is a chief innovator in funk music and creator of The Mothership Connection.

Black Kirby was an exhibit of comic artist Jack Kirby’s Marvel comic characters reimagined as Afrofuturist superheroes.

DJ Spooky remixed the 1900s film The Birth of a Nation based on the Ku Klux Klan as Rebirth of a Nation, breaking down the film and remixing the images and video as visual samples.

The Hacker Ethic

Stephen Levy’s Hackers profiles computer luminaries from Richard Greenblatt to Steve Wozniak. When the book began, computers were batch processing monoliths with a priesthood of attendants who barred students and hobbyists from using the million dollar machines. Over three decades several computing movements led to the the personal computer, a new interactive entertainment medium, and the study of artificial intelligence. Hackers tells the stories of the people who built things that nobody had ever seen before. For the most part, hackers didn’t create through any sense of duty to society–they hacked for fun.

hackersComputers have come a long way since the 1960s. You can’t just build a modern operating system or even a modern application out of assembly code. Programmers today have to work together to build systems more complex than the original hackers could have imagined. Some aspects of hackerism seem at odds with modern software development. But the core principles of the Hacker Ethic remain intact:

“Access to computers–and anything that might teach you about the way the world works–should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!”

“Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position.”

“You can create art and beauty on a computer.”

Computers are a great equalizer. That’s one of the aspects that drew me in back in the 90s. Not just because anyone can program, but because anyone who can program can be taken seriously by the larger community. When I was in 4th grade, I started programming to create my own video games. I taught  myself Visual Basic and created an online Pokemon battler played by dozens of people in AOL chat rooms. I created a sort of digital fanzine that I shared with PlayStation Underground Producer Gary Barth. Even though I was a rugrat with no formal training, I felt like I could make a difference in areas that I cared about. With computers, I felt like I could do anything.

Richard Greenblatt photograph

Richard Greenblatt, the ultimate 1960s hacker

“Mistrust Authority, Promote Decentralization.”

“All Information should be free.”

Other tenets of the hacker ethic have proven more difficult to adhere to. In the 1960s it was possible for hackers to build new worlds from scratch because nothing existed before. 50 years on, programmers create new worlds by standing on the shoulders of those who came before. The complexity of our endeavors requires us to come together to accomplish our goals. The Human Genome Project, SpaceX, Google: all of these major advances in technology required the work of a legion of hackers working together to multiply their abilities and accomplish things that no one person do alone.

To me, being a hacker is about doing what you want to do and not taking no for an answer. If a problem seems too difficult, break it down into smaller steps or enlist aid from your allies. If other people think your project is silly or pointless, ignore them. There is beauty in creation for its own sake.

What is the next technology frontier? Try synthetic biology. Applying technology to biofuels, medical cures, and agriculture is the next frontier for hackers looking for a way to change the world.

Where to Find: Breakfast Tacos in Seattle

One of my favorite things about Austin is the breakfast tacos: Tacodeli, Taco Cabana, Juan in a Million… I could go on. When I first moved to Seattle, I woke up every Saturday with a craving for breakfast tacos. After some investigation I found a few good options. Here’s a map with options, as well as my reviews.

Check out my map of breakfast tacos in central Seattle:

Best Breakfast Taco in Seattle: Veggie Tacos with Brisket, Cafe Pettirosso

Cafe Pettirosso is a tiny French cafe on Pike/Pine. It’s not exactly the place you’d expect to find Seattle’s Best Breakfast Taco, but that’s kind of the point. Seattle doesn’t have a whole lot of casual Texmex breakfast joints. What makes this place special is that I never found a place like this in Austin. Pettirosso only has veggie tacos on the menu, but add some brisket and bam: Austin seems a little closer.

Best Casual Breakfast: Breakfast Taco Plate, Blue Water Taco Grill

I prefer small, casual breakfast joints for my tacos. It doesn’t matter if they’re a chain or a local business, I just want the taco to speak for itself. Blue Water Taco Grill is the best place for this in Seattle. No fancy ingredients or ambiance. Just the tacos, the way God intended.

Best Texmex Breakfast, sans tacos: Senor Moose

Senor Moose reminds me of little texmex cafes from home. They have a good selection of enchiladas, tostadas, and chilaquiles. I recommend the enchiladas rojas en salsa de chile guajillo (salsa and beef enchiladas). If this place had breakfast tacos it would be perfect. Get here early; this place packs up at brunch.