Keeping up with Cassie Tarakajian

We chatted with the Brooklyn artist/technologist about evoking the beauty in humanity and virtual reality-based operating systems.

Cassie Tarakajian wasn’t always making weird stuff with new technology. Before her Weird Stuff with New Technology era began she studied at Johns Hopkins and took a job at Bloomberg and then the design agency Big Human. But now she’s finished a fellowship at the art/tech space Pioneer Works, down in Red Hook, and she’s put her time into some innovative stuff.

“I sort of was inspired by literature,” Tarakajian said in an interview. “I read a lot of [Haruki] Murakami and [Jorge Luis] Borges and magical realism and reality being slightly shifted as an analogy to emotion. I thought virtual reality would be interesting for storytelling and expressing emotions.”

So three months ago she created a VR piece called The Syrian Journey, which started as a work of fiction. The idea is that the closer we can get to visualizing and understanding the lives of people in horrifically different situations, the better.

“As I kept working, it didn’t have the emotional impact I wanted it to have,” Tarakajian said. “I shifted direction and decided to take a news story and recreate that in VR. [It was] a story I heard about a group of refugees that were on a plastic raft between Turkey and Greece and their ship sunk … experiencing that firsthand.”

Print journalism can describe a situation and television can show a situation, but virtual reality has the promise of taking the viewer inside a situation. Tarakajian’s Syrian Journey, a brief, 30-second VR film about being on a raft escaping Syria does just that.

I asked Tarakajian what was interesting to her in tech right now, and was expecting to hear more about VR, which I did, kinda, but, well, let’s let her explain.

“I’m really interested in VR as an interface to your computer,” she said. “We’re so faced in our computer with our mouse and our screen and if our interface was in 3D and our OS was in 3D we could interact with our computers better, because we humans interact with spatial stuff better. In the same ways we write code on our computer and make images in our computers we could make content — but in an OS in 3D, we could have parallel tasks but arranged in space. The idea behind the 3D OS is you could have one task and arrange things in space and that becomes an external memory, you can just look over and say, ‘Oh yeah, that thing.’ In your apartment you can find your stuff very easily because you don’t have to fish around folders for files and stuff.”


Tarakajian is friends with a lot of people we’ve written about before. She was a participant in Sam Lavigne and Amelia Winger-Bearskin’s Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas Hackathon. Winger-Bearskin is also her director at DBRS Innovation Labs. Her brother, Sam Tarakajian is popular in the software and sound engineering world in New York.

“I don’t know,” she said. “New York is a small place.”

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