The Softer Side of Technofuturism

Five futurists on how immersive technologies will blur the boundaries between us

Karen Emslie
Published in
9 min readJul 9, 2018


Illustrations by Kelsey Wroten

IImmersive technologies toy with your senses and have the unique ability to catapult you into a new reality. Inside a virtual reality (VR) headset, like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, we become fully immersed in a computer-generated environment, while augmented and mixed reality (AR and MR) blend real and virtual worlds; they overlay, or mix, our physical surroundings with digital content. Each technology finds a way to turn the seemingly impossible into the possible.

Immersion can already put you inside a giant redwood and a cell in Maine State Prison, and developers are building ways to holographically transport us into 3D digital worlds and allow us to live the experiences of another person. But how far can this go—and how will it change us?

We talked to five immersive technology pioneers working across journalism, filmmaking, storytelling, and scientific research. Their ideas offer a range of perspectives about the potential of immersive technologies. What they all have in common, however, is the belief that immersive technology can be a positive force for the future — depending on what the rest of us choose to do with it.

Nonny de la Peña is an American journalist and co-founder of Emblematic Group, an immersive VR and MR media group. Forbes described her as the “godmother of VR.”

Luis Miguel Samperio is the co-founder of EmpaticaXR, an “evolutionary transformative collective” who are designing the world’s first immersive XR (MR+VR) collaborative and cinematic interactive game.

Mavi Sanchez-Vives is a neuroscientist and co-director of Event Lab, a project that builds experimental VR environments.

Ethan Shaftel directs VR, immersive media, and interactive projects. His VR film EXTRAVAGANZA premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Carl H. Smith is director of the Learning Technology Research Centre (LTRC) in London. Among other things, he is developing wearable experiences and investigating the ethics of immersive technologies.

It will not just be about becoming other…



Karen Emslie

Location-independent journalist and essayist. Stories in Wired, National Geographic (digital), The Atlantic, SmithsonianMag, Aeon, GOOD, Huck, and more.