‘Futuristic’ RIT alumni discuss a mix of technology, art and design at the Imagine RIT Symposium
RIT alumnus and entrepreneur Matthew Peltier believes his company’s success will be driven by the creative use of new technologies that develop personal connections between users around the world. As the founder and CEO of the Community marketing and communications channel, Peltier leads real, instant and, often, lucrative conversations.
Peltier ’13 (interactive new media development) spoke at the Virtual Futurists Symposium, a collection of RIT alumni solicited to present an insider’s perspective on the future of the industry as it relates to concerns technology, art and design. The symposium was held via Zoom on May 1 Imagine RIT: Festival of Creativity and Innovation.
Joining Peltier were Ben Meunier ’03 (electrical / mechanical engineering technology), vice president of global product strategy at Oakley; Dimple Joseph ’18 (industrial engineering), ’18 ME (engineering management), frontline leader at Abbott Rapid Diagnostics; Brittney Lee ’06 (film and animation), visual development artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios; and Gregory Smith ’06 (film and animation), head of characters and technical animation at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The event was moderated by RIT President David Munson and moderated by WXXI “Connections” host Evan Dawson.
“Every organization needs to have people who understand what’s changing, where we’re going and how we’re getting there,” Dawson said, introducing the presenters. “And that’s what it is.”
Ben Meunier, a consumer products veteran, spent 13 years in Oakley’s research and development group. During this time, he introduced new technologies and products to the market, including PRIZM, laser protective lenses and two portable electronic devices, Inferno and Radar Pace. At Oakley headquarters, he found his passion: science wrapped in art.
According to Meunier, Oakley bought the second 3D printer ever produced in 1987, allowing the company to push the boundaries of design and science. “If designers need a thinner section, a lighter part, or need it to bend in a new and interesting way, we can do that to help bond emotionally with the people. “
Meunier also said Oakley is mixing art and science more than ever before.
“The interaction between art and science has a deeper relationship. Design pushes science to make things that we think impossible possible. “
In his first professional role as an industrial engineer, Joseph Dimple has helped Abbott identify areas of opportunity and take actions necessary to improve and grow. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joseph joined the Abbott Rapid Diagnostics business unit as a frontline leader where she oversees the production of BinaxNOW, Abbott’s COVID-19 Ag rapid test. RIT has used Abbott Rapid Tests more than 100,000 times this semester alone.
Joseph, who focuses on process improvement and believes in digital inclusion and accessibility, said that while technology is transforming the world, it’s not sure it transforms for everyone. Therefore, she devotes part of her work to creating services designed to meet the needs of all users, including those users who depend on assistive technology to access services.
“I hope you take steps to educate yourself,” she said, “and apply and allow knowledge to transform you and the way you interact with others. Let the change inspire you, not intimidate you. This is what you can do to address digital inclusion and close the gap. “
At Abbott, Joseph is happy that she is making a difference through her work.
“Abbott is transforming the world of healthcare with the help of technology, and I am fortunate to be part of the team that makes BinaxNOW,” she said. “We are doing our part to make health care accessible. “
that of Matthieu Peltier The Community company uses the SMS application already installed on users’ cell phones to send messages. Users compose posts in the Community app or on the web and use filters to hyperfocus audiences, such as targeting posts to parents aged 23 to 45 who live in Southern California. The company reports that between 35 and 60 percent of recipients will respond.
While at RIT, Peltier took a range of courses including philosophy, psychology, and any new media courses he could get his hands on. This diversity of learning, as well as the cooperatives that exposed him to opportunities and start-ups, allowed him to create enriching human experiences.
“We all use text messaging to talk to friends, family and share GIFs,” he said. “Right now, messaging is only used at the consumer level. But we think it’s the most powerful channel there is.
During his presentation, Peltier encouraged Symposium audience members to text him directly using his community phone number to show how the platform works.
Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and medical professionals like CBS News medical collaborator Dr. David Agus are using Community to reach people around the world. With the onset of COVID-19, Agus used Community to give COVID updates, interpret CDC reports, and engage one-on-one with health-conscious people.
“It’s a powerful environment to be able to have these meaningful and direct conversations,” Peltier said.
Since the company’s launch in 2019, the platform has sent more than 3 billion text messages and now has more than 26 million members with a 95% open rate on messaging. The future of the platform, according to Peltier, will likely rely on artificial intelligence and natural language processing to further facilitate targeted relationships.
“We’re working on innovative things that really open up the way we connect with people, share information and have meaningful conversations. “
Peltier ended his presentation by offering some advice.
“To the students listening today, take advantage of the opportunities you have at RIT. Get connected, take classes outside of your main discipline. These things have been some of the most fundamental in helping me think outside the box. “
For Brittney lee and Gregory Smith, who met as students during their first term at RIT, their creative work at Walt Disney Animation Studios uses principle-based design approaches to connect audiences to characters. Together, they collaborate with over 800 artists, technicians, and storytellers to create projects that touch people across generations, like wild and spontaneous Anna, and reserved and fearful Elsa. Frozen, and the wacky and adorable Ralph from Ralph’s wreck.
Lee’s enthusiasm for the animation world unleashed at just 6 years old, fascinated by the Disney classic The little Mermaid. Today, as a visual development artist, she is responsible for creating works of art meant to inspire, inform and support the stories that are told.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Smith’s job is elevating the craft to push the product above, just like Walt Disney did decades ago.
“Disney, which is almost 100 years old, is known for pushing technology to advance art,” said Smith, who heads the characters and technical animation and leads a team of 65 artists and supervisors in the creation of the characters of a film, from hair and clothing simulations to the final varnish. “From the first use of synchronous sound in animation in Disney’s Willie Steamboat in 1928, it remained important to bring new technologies and to advance the medium in the art of animation.
As both envision the future of technology in the medium, Lee believes the immersion of VR storytelling and the tools available will find its way into filmmaking.
“Virtual reality creates the possibility of developing works of art in dimensional space and telling stories ‘in circles’,” said Lee, who was a production designer on the short film VR. Myth: A frozen tale. “I can’t wait to see where it goes. “
Smith is excited about the concept of using machine learning to create realistic humans.
“Machine learning gives artists the ability to access technology that visual effects houses wouldn’t have had just a year ago,” he said. “As technology increases, costs come down and allow more voices, more storytellers, to engage in this space, and I find that really inspiring. I am fascinated to see how this is changing the industry over the next few years.
The global pandemic has also accelerated real-time connectivity in remote situations. New technology is being developed that will allow multiple people to work remotely on applications and collaborations in real time, on the same stage.
“It’s something that we can’t even do in the same building right now, even though we’re working on it,” Smith said. “The idea that people can collaborate and iterate together in real time increases accessibility for people to work together to tell stories.”
Smith added, “At the end of the day, the work is beautiful and speaks for itself. It’s so satisfying for us to see the audience reaction to the movies we make and the characters we create and how they affect everyone.
The event ended with a short question-and-answer session in which attendees were asked how they create collaboration and teamwork that supports their vision.
“You have to find passionate people,” says Meunier. “It doesn’t have to be the same as you do, but they have to be passionate about something. “
Peltier added, “When you develop a team, it’s about finding people who add different perspectives and come from different backgrounds. I think the best teams are the most diverse. It is the most complete teams who discover potential “blind spots”. It is also a question of values and culture. Then there is the passion. We are all passionate about what we build and the problems we solve.