Valerie Vacante

Top 5 Tech: Global Innovator, Valerie Vacante

Valerie Vacante, director of strategy at global experience and innovation agency, LiveArea and founder of Collabsco, reveals five pieces of tech that have shaped her life.

Video Games
Probably some of my first experiences with video games were before starting elementary school, playing Pac-Man and Centipede at a local pizza place, there were loads of quarters spent, numerous rounds played and hot pizza. I remember feeling the utter excitement of playing video games as a kid, some of my very first encounters with video game consoles were with the Atari 2600 and Intellivision when visiting family friends homes. To this day, Breakout, created by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, continues to be one of my favorite Atari games of all times.

Beyond eating pizza and visiting other people’s houses to play, my Mum and I went to a department store to purchase a Vectrex, an all in one video game console with a monitor and over 20 games for my Dad as the big holiday gift. My Dad let me play for years.

There were a number of handheld games gifted, including Qbert and Electronic Pinball; however, it all changed when I received my very own NES complete with Super Mario Bros to play right out of the box. There were countless hours of reading Nintendo Power magazine, learning new games, working out the levels in the same room with friends and having the pure joy of play. To this day, video games influence my perspective on product and service design, specifically how we can gamify the world around us to have more fun in our everyday lives.

Personal Computing
Growing up, one of the most exciting classes in elementary school was going to the computer lab once a week. It was a warm room packed with Commodore or Radio Shack like computer systems with TV monitors. There were a few Apple II e computers dotted throughout the school, in the fourth grade (age 10), the Apple IIe made it to our class, lucky students were able to take turns playing the glory of The Oregon Trail.

It wasn’t until 1990 that our family purchased a computer for our home, mainly for my parents; however, I was now able to make my book reports look top notch with Print Shop covers and typed up reports using WordPerfect on DOS printed on a dot matrix printer. While writing for the school paper and yearbook in middle school (ages 12-14) I had the opportunity to work on an Apple Macintosh computer, the only one in the school and it was so fascinating compared to other computers that I had seen, there was a mouse and the UI was clickable magic.

Fast forward to the mid-late 1990’s, I saved my money from my part-time job and purchased a floor model of a Packard Bell Computer, the first computer that powered my education beyond the 24 hour computer lab on campus.

In my first role out of university, I had a desktop assigned to me; however after continuous business travel back and forth from the UK to the rest of Europe, with a company borrowed laptop, I was eventually provided my own work laptop – I felt like I was really moving up in the world and could work almost anywhere.

Today, my life is powered by Apple, from my personal computer, work computer a long way from a once a week log in in the computer lab. We will continue to see personalised computer experiences across multiple platforms and interfaces.

Internet
Growing up in Texas, a visit to Six Flags Astroworld in Houston was a must visit, in-between queuing up for the next rollercoaster ride my friends and I came across a US Videotel, popup. U.S. Videotel was patterned after the French Minitel technology, a monitor that connects a phone line with access to information like sports scores, movie schedules, shopping, games trivia and more. It felt like something out of a sci-fi film and I wanted it in our home. Our family computer did not have enough oomph to power the Internet and ultimately I could not convince my parents to invest in a US Videotel.

After buying my own computer in 1996, I was able to “surf the information superhighway,” thanks to my free AOL CD-roms. The sounds of the cringy dial-up Internet connecting would keep me at the edge of my seat – once connected it was online for hours and hours, I felt like I could not consume information fast enough.

Today, we can access the Internet almost anywhere, not only from our computers and mobile phones, but connected products like smart thermostats, fitness wearables, smart speakers, robots, toys, games and gadgetry to entertain, educate and inspire us in the physical and digital world.

 Mobile Phones
When I moved to London in 2001, I had to buy a phone to stay connected with friends and family back in the US, my first mobile was the beloved Nokia 3310, packed with SMS capabilities and the game Snakes. My world changed, and I could connect with my memaw and papaw and parents back in Texas while riding the night bus home. I could text friends when there were tube delays or to just say, “hi.”

A few other phones followed Nokia 7250i, Blackberry Pearl and then my tech world changed again with the introduction of the iPhone. Nothing has matched the Apple iPhone, a computer in your pocket as well as a photo album soundsystem and remote control to almost everything, unlocking ways for us to be inspired and capture perspective from our friends and the world.

Touchless Experiences & Immersive Worlds
In my everyday life I am continuously experimenting, playing, researching and creating experiences with emerging technologies. Over the years products have included VR gaming, VR training with eye tracking and gestures, AR try-ons, AR gaming, QR code unboxing and web-based contactless payment experiences.Other work has been focused on, gaming and invention around IoT, NFC, smart speakers, data over sound and low cost light recognition technologies. While these are a collection of technologies they have all impacted how I create, collaborate, learn and shape the way we interact and connect.

Everything inspires everything, some of the technologies mentioned have been around before I was born and others are in their infancy stage. But all of them have enabled a multitude of new technologies, business models and ways for us to move, play, learn and interact with the world around us. These technologies and innovations have ignited the future making everyday life easier, playful and a bit more magical.

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