Interview by Supong Arep
Growing up in Dimapur Nagaland, 25-year old Tiajungla Dominica Jamir discovered early on that she had a natural flair for computers, gaming – and everything tech. That led her to pursue a computer science degree in Bengaluru. But what we are about to chat about is the interesting journey she undertook post her graduation.
Being the ambitious go-getter that she is, she started exploring deeper into her interests in new-age technologies. That’s when she decided to go for a master’s degree in UX/UI Design and Development, from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), New York City in 2019. She recently graduated summa cum laude (an honorary title used by educational institutions to signify a degree that was earned “with the highest distinction.”) and was the only Indian orator selected from among graduating students to speak at the NYIT 2021 Commencement. She is now on her way to becoming an entrepreneur by co-founding her own AR & VR based startup in NYC.
We chat with Dominica Jamir to get to know her better, as she takes us through her fascinating journey from Nagaland to New York, a glimpse into the future of AR and VR, some exciting award-winning projects she has worked on while still a student in NYIT, her favorite travel destination – and her upcoming entrepreneurial venture.
Arep: Hi Dominica, so excited to be having this chat with you! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Dominica: My name is Dominica Jamir, short for my Naga birth name – Bendangtoshi Tiajungla Dominica Jamir. Kolkata-born and Dimapur, Nagaland-raised, I turn 25 this year. After earning a B.E. in computer engineering from DSCE, Bangalore in 2018, I decided to challenge myself to excel and was accepted in the UX/UI Design and Development master’s degree program at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), New York City, in 2019.
Just last month on May 23, 2021, I graduated summa cum laude and was the only Indian student orator selected from among over 3,000 graduating and international students, to speak at the NYIT 2021 Commencement.
Arep: Congratulations! So proud of you! So tell me how and what got you hooked to AR & VR?
Dominica: Since childhood, I was naturally artistic and creative, and soon discovered that using computers, gaming, and related technology were mentally stimulating, engaging, and rather easy to grasp.
While working on NYIT’s Manhattan campus as a Graduate Assistant in 2019, I became involved with VR technology and spent a lot of time exploring and learning. My professor, Kevin Park, upon noticing my enthusiasm and extraordinary capabilities, encouraged me to accept an NYIT project to work on creating prototypes for an in-house education project. That project as it turns out became the core of my master thesis and won the award at iLRN 2020 International Conference for Best Practitioner Poster Proposal.
Arep: Did you personally face any obstacles in pursuing this path after you decided this is what you want to pursue as a career?
Dominica: To be honest, I am fortunate to find myself surrounded by NYIT professors, co-students, and friends in NYC who not only nurture but also encourage and inspire me. With such a strong support system, any obstacles are overcome easily.
Arep: For the uninitiated, give us a glimpse into your world of AR and VR, and why we should be excited about it.
Dominica: VR and AR developers can create realistic, immersive, visual experiences of almost anything one can imagine! For example, as discussed in my award-winning thesis presentation at iLRN 2020, this tech can enhance traditional teaching and learning methods by recreating parts of lessons in an immersive, interactive, virtual 3D space on a web-based platform, which can be accessed remotely and globally, via the internet or through a VR headset e.g. Oculus Quest 2. Traditional methods of teaching delivery via 2D books, videos, and lectures stand to benefit from this enhancement.
Similarly, entertainment companies like Cirque du Soleil (Montreal-based entertainment company and the largest contemporary circus producer in the world) or other upscale Las Vegas-style, theater productions etc., resources could be saved in the planning stages when producers and artistic directors ideate then use VR developers to create a variety of virtual sets (note: visual only), as immersive and sharable experiences.
To experience Dominica’s AR, click Cyborg filter on Facebook, or on Instagram – then click here for her: Cirque-face filter on Instagram.
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Arep: What is it about AR and VR that you are most excited about – personally?
Dominica: The internet was instrumental in spreading technology – and in a similar fashion, VR can potentially transform the way we access immersive experiences in our daily lives. It’s just a matter of a few years when VR becomes affordable – then goes mainstream.
“VR is here already – and here to stay! I predict that very soon, it will elvolve sufficiently to provide mass access to immersive experiences from the comfort of users’ own chairs – be it from home or office; it could become as common as using mobile phones.
Users with VR headsets can already experience underwater visuals without a need for an oxygen mask; travel to snowy mountain tops and ski without freezing or risk to body or limbs – all from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Medical students can soon learn and comprehend through immersive, virtual operations in 3D VR without dissecting cadavers. Tourists can experience virtual tours of historic places – without any physical travel – and theatrical performances and concerts without the crowds. The list goes on.”
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Arep: Tell us about some exciting future projects that you would be working on.
Dominica: On June 1, 2021, I become the Co-Founder/Creative Director of a New York based company: AR-VR & UX-UI ENTERPRISES LLC. In this new stint as an entrepreneur, I am excited and challenged to deliver extraordinary solutions to businesses using my solid UX/UI and AR/VR education and training. With laser focus on clients’ unique requirements, I aim to truly make their products and offerings stand out.
Arep: That is super impressive and inspiring! Share a quote that keeps you charged up always.
Dominica: “Minds are like parachutes: they only function when open.” – Thomas Dewar
Arep: Let’s do some leisure Q&A 🙂 Share a hidden talent that you have..
Dominica: Hmn, I have a few …I would say cooking, baking, and chocolate-making. My family members are the biggest fans of my cakes, cookies, and desserts – especially my younger brother who, I must proudly admit, consumes the most – then has the nerve to demand more! 😀
Arep: What was the first thing you made? Did you sell it?
Dominica: Around the year 2004, I recall winning my first drawing prize at the Nagaland Post’s (Sunday edition) art competition. The first prize award was Rs. 150, but to a 7-year-old back then, it felt like a million bucks!
Arep: What is the best piece of advice you have received – and from whom?
Dominica: It was a quote shared by the person who inspired me to excel in life – my uncle who lives in New York, “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” It somehow blew my mind and has since become my life motto.
Arep: What was the most beautiful place you have travelled to – and why was it special?
Dominica: One of the most beautiful places I have been to and plan to visit again and again is Aruba.
“This tiny island (of Aruba) is part of three Dutch-Caribbean ‘ABC’ islands: Aruba, Bonnaire and Curacao – all off the coast of Venezuela, South America. Located further south from most tourist-trampled, Caribbean island destinations are closer to the US mainland. Aruba is a five-hour, non-stop flight from New York.
Aruba’s ambiance of laid-back, calm turquoise waters, exquisite restaurants, and friendly attitudes are exceptional! Their culture is infused with courteous hospitality and an infectious tropical atmosphere of pure bliss and stress-free, relaxation. Aruba is called “One Happy Island” and they surely mean it. ”
Dominica enjoying the calm turquoise waters in Aruba – her fav holiday destination
Arep: Name one book or movie that has changed your perspective on life.
Dominica: Wish I could choose just one movie, but for me, I prefer to rely on various information sources to form a qualified opinion and perspective. I was spellbound by the 2018 movie, “Upgrade” as well as almost all episodes (in seasons 1-5), of Netflix’s “Black Mirror”. Their storylines examine modern society, particularly pertaining to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies.
Arep: If you are having a bad day how you deal with it, or make it better?
Dominica: To mitigate any self-induced stress that comes from goal setting, deadlines, and accomplishments, I often play video games, stream movies, or simply listen to music for a distraction and to unwind.
Here’s a game that Dominica Jamir created in Unity for one of my classes last semester. Follow her on Instagram.
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