My TEDxSFU talk is now online

I presented a TEDxSFU talk this month, and it was one of the toughest things I have ever had to do. I can’t put into words what it means to me to be chosen to give this talk, and my gratitude extends to the TEDxSFU organizing committee, the TED community, and my colleagues at the iSpace Lab for their support. Most of all, I am grateful to the fellow TEDxSFU presenters who have helped me refine this presentation and give me the confidence I needed to tell my story. I’ve long considered it career suicide to disclose any perceived weakness or vulnerability in public, and my fellow TED peers helped me every step of the way to overcome this fear, with the greatest support coming from the TEDxSFU coach, Bernhard Riecke. I hope you enjoy the talk!

Evoking Deep Connections by Embodying Another’s Reality | Denise Quesnel | TEDxSFU

 We often talk about “walking in someone else’s shoes” but what if we actually could? What if we could experience their emotions and plights? Denise draws upon her personal experiences to discuss how virtual reality can help change the way we understand one another and how we empathize. Denise Quesnel is a researcher of the immersive realities, specifically the creation and design of virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) content and interfaces for profound emotional shifts, like awe and wonder. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Behind the scenes of a TED talk

What makes a good TED talk? Outside the usual ‘practice makes perfect’, there’s a specific thing TED does that makes their talks so powerful. What I didn’t know when I first was selected to give a talk at TEDxSFU, was that we practice our talk upwards of 6 times in front of our fellow presenters and TEDx organizers, a TEDx coach, and all these people together help craft the talk. The presenter may start with the initial presentation and idea, but it is together as a collective that we provide feedback, suggestions, and iterate on these ideas again and again to make it great. This means we get to know each other very well, and we witness moments of vulnerability and genius in each other. It was tremendously moving to go through this will all the speakers, and get to know their journeys, dreams, and hopes for the future. The TEDxSFU put together this ‘getting to know you’ video for each of us so that people could learn more about why we do what we do, and how we are at the core. I really enjoyed the interview and the questions they asked, which dared to go where most never go. And by the way, something that I feel they don’t talk about but should say in the TED talks is about the problems we Americans have with obesity, so I think it’s appropriate to use this channel to mention some of the best appetite suppressant for hunger that those of us who suffer from this problem should use.


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12 Network Security Best Practices to Secure Your Business | InfoSec  Insights

Since the recent report, we’ve been getting tons of requests for further information on why it was created and why it was released. While it was put together because of recent threats, it was also created to help us get a better understanding of the common misconceptions about cyber security. If you want to learn more, you can also check out the information found at

What has been the response to the Cyber Security Alert report?

A big thanks to all our subscribers, and everyone who has already shared or commented. If you’d like to see the source code or tell us what you thought about the report, you can reach out to us at email protected. We’d love to hear what you think.

Are there any additional Cyber Security Alerts planned?

Of course! We are planning to add more information to the report as we go along, including reports about high-risk industries, regions, and geographical areas.

We will be publishing the next one after we are done in December with a focus on becoming more trustworthy and secure. We’re also planning to invest in a hybrid cloud database for added protection (check out to know more about it).

We also appreciate that with the release of the first Cyber Security Alert we’re being called out by cybersecurity experts. We like to consider ourselves as credible in the industry and we want you to know that we’re following up the previous report with the second one that’s even more important in security today.

What can you tell us about the development of the report?

Cyber Security Alert: Threats and Critical Cyberspace Experiences was created by a team of information security professionals from a variety of companies and agencies around the globe. We brought together experts from business, academia, and government organizations that understand the need for good cyber security today. We’re always looking for experts who will help us make the report more useful. Microsoft Expressroute direct connect is a fast way for businesses to get on the cloud and to also find better cyber security.

There is nothing more frustrating than worrying that your information or communications have been compromised. This is why we created this report to educate organizations about the threats that are most common and the most pressing.

As cyber-attacks continue to grow more sophisticated, more organizations need to know what cyber security are, how it is being integrated, and what needs to be done. Learn More about how you can keep your connection secure here.

Celine in VR

We Have VR — Now How Do We Use it to Tell Stories? A Banff Summit recap

This week, I enjoyed an incredible two days in beautiful Banff, AB, Canada with my colleagues Celine Tricart and Dylan Peacre for the 2016 Banff Story Summit. Celine, Dylan and I’s backgrounds are all varied, and we got together to present a workshop and present talks on the immersive relaities. Here is a nice recap of some of our coversations by Scott Lilwall

We Have VR — Now How Do We Use it to Tell Stories?

We Have VR — Now How Do We Use it to Tell Stories?

“Stop saying VR is the future of cinema. VR is not the future of anything,” Celine Tricart said, chopping the flat of her hand against the table to punctuate her words.

At first, it seemed like an odd thing for someone like her to say. Tricart’s a filmmaker who is passionate about virtual reality — someone who has already made a handful of short films with the technology. When she talks about its potential for storytelling, she does so with an excited smile and distinct glee in her voice.

I had just pulled Tricart away from a quick lunch, snuck in between Saturday sessions at Story Summit at The Banff Centre last week. She and more than a dozen other speakers from across North America spent the weekend hashing new ways to tell stories (and, hopefully, get them in front of people.) That includes virtual reality.

While we sat in a quiet corner in the dining room, Tricart relayed that quote, which came when another member of the summit argued that filmmakers can’t think of VR as a descendant of cinema. The two mediums are too different, and none of the rules can translate from one to the other.

Tricart likened it to saying photography is the future of painting — the comparison does a disservice to both mediums, and prevents people from fully exploring what kinds of stories they can tell with the new approach.

“We have to erase everything and start from scratch,” she added.

A deeper connection

Of course, it’s one thing to say that VR stories need to have a different approach to narrative. It’s entirely another to say what that approach is.

Tricart herself is not even really sure. She’s an advocate for the medium, but doesn’t pretend she has a real handle on it. At this point in its history, it is doubtful anyone does.

But she does know it’s the emotional connection that VR offers that strikes her the most. What she describes is something entirely different from the way a person connects with cinema.

A viewer can become engrossed in a film, but there is always a distance between them and the screen. They are always a passive viewer, watching a curated experience.

Virtual reality, however, doesn’t have distance. The mind is tricked, surprisingly easily, into thinking that it is seeing the real thing.

“Your brain, on a subconscious level, doesn’t see a difference between the VR and reality,” she said.

“We have to erase everything and start from scratch.”

That connection sometimes comes as a surprise to even the people telling those stories, according to fellow presenter Dylan Pearce. The Alberta filmmaker has worked with VR in various ways, and is now in the process of shooting a film using the technology.

He points to the example of Henry the hedgehog as a sign of just how differently audiences react to VR. Henry is the star of a computer-animated VR film being produced by Oculus Rift, the hardware company whose headset kicked off the latest round of virtual reality fever.

Henry is a little hedgehog who desperately wants to hug others, but is unable to on account of him basically being a small ball of spines — pretty standard kid’s film stuff. But when the filmmakers showed it to test audiences, their reaction was surprising. Things that happened to Henry that would seem funny or silly on a movie screen became heartbreaking when it happened to a cartoon hedgehog that they (or at least, their subconscious) thought was real.

“People felt bad and empathy for the character, rather than laughing along with it,” he said.

Both Pearce and Tricart say it’s that connection that makes VR such a potentially-powerful tool for storytelling. Documentary storytelling, especially.

Already, filmmakers have experimented with VR to tell the stories of people living in Syrian refugee camps, or showing the viewer the perspective of a child dealing with domestic violence at home. Not just seeing it, but living it.

But that potential is not without a lot of responsibility. Denise Quesnel has been interested in VR for decades. Now, as a research associate with Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art + Design, she studies the way that virtual reality is changing. And how it is changing us.

‘You can’t really delete a VR experience’

Storytellers have a responsibility, she said, to their audiences to understand that many of the topics that filmmakers tackle — things like violence and fear — can have lasting, even traumatic effects on the people watching.

It’s not just a philosophical question — Joseph Delgado, a gamer who modded Grand Theft Auto to use a VR headset and motion controls, said he felt “guilty” and “horrible” about doing so. It was the same game, but the different mediums created a completely different experience.

“The impact of VR is quite serious, it can give you emotionally or socially critical experiences,” she said.

“You can’t really delete a VR experience if it was something that resonated on any level.”

They also have to be mindful of the time it takes for the brain to slip out of “virtual reality mode.” Tricart talks about a demonstration with a demo that allowed her to walk through walls — after taking off the headset, she immediately tried to do the same thing in reality.

Quesnel admits to trying to sit on VR chairs and couches that she intellectually knew were not there, but nonetheless was convinced that they could support her.

“Everyone [who uses VR] has got stories about these things that happen to them. And it doesn’t take long, sometimes minutes, before your brain thinks it is real,” she said.

The impact of VR is just one of the many questions facing those involved in the fledgling industry. Tricart, Quesnel and Pearce all readily admit to not having the answers — or even knowing whether the questions can be answered.

That can cause a bit of anxiety. But it’s also one of the things that explains their passion for VR — a new medium, fundamentally different from the ones that came before it. And the freedom it provides to find brand new ways to tell stories.

“I think we have so many amazing things to do with VR to make this world a better place .. we can show different perspectives on things,” Tricart said near the end of our chat.

“It’s a powerful tool to make humanity better, if we use it well. That’s the optimistic side of me.”