Feb 23 2023

How a stop-motion puppet fabricator broke into VR

By Meta Careers
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“If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be working at a tech company making the color for Meta Quest, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Victoria Rose’s professional life is a layer cake of creations, experiments, stumbles and triumphs. Nestled alongside her stop-motion puppetry work is a degree from fashion design school, toy-making endeavors and a 2-year stint in culinary school. “When I got into the stop-motion industry,” Victoria says, “it turned out I had a real knack for molding and casting.”
This talent led to where she sits today: a state-of-the-art lab at Meta’s offices in Sunnyvale, California, creating designs and prototypes for the future of VR.

“What do you want to do?”

In the world of prototyping, rapid mold making is a sought-after skill. Typically, molds go overseas, creating a turnaround time that takes weeks. “For me to be able to do it in one day here in California,” Victoria explains, “is very valuable.”
Once she accepted the job at Meta, Victoria was initially surprised by the amount of autonomy and resources she was given to try new things and learn. “It's the first time I've ever had a job where somebody said, ‘What do you want to do?’ And that was hard for me at first because I didn't know. I was like, ‘No, no, you pay me and I do what you tell me.’”
Reflecting on her time here, Victoria makes one thing clear: “What Meta has done more than any other job I've ever had is they said, ‘We want to invest in you as a person. You're our most valuable resource.’ I'm doing things here with materials I never thought possible, and it's because Meta gave me the time and the resources to learn. It's incredible. And now I get to share that with other people.”

Assembling a team of “tiny-thing makers”

There came a point when Victoria couldn’t keep doing everything herself, and the time had come to hire more people to form a team. “My biggest thing that I'm proud of here,” Victoria says, “is the fact that I opened the door for other artists like me to do this work.”
Some stop-motion puppet makers also do toy prototyping for major toy companies, and their skill sets can be parallel to what Victoria does in the lab. “Building a tiny thing is building a tiny thing,” explains Victoria, “whether it's in chocolate, or silicone or it's in a 3D print. So it was very important that I hired other artists with hands-on skills.”
"Victoria holds a silicone mold of a human ear up to her own ear."
Designing products for a variety of ear shapes and sizes helps give the people who use those products a better experience. Victoria models one of many ear molds she helped create for a recent audio-related project.
“I was able to be really involved in hand-selecting my team,” she says. “It was very important to me that we got other artists who were hands-on. I also looked at hiring chocolatiers because they're similar in trade and skill because of the molding. What I learned about this job is that you never know where your skills will translate.”
She also says the most challenging thing as manager is learning how other people need to be cared for. “I try to give motivational room when that's what's needed, or if someone just needs some space for technical execution. I make myself what they need instead of what I need.”

You’ve got the touch.

There are a lot of parts on Meta Quest that touch the body — from the headset to the controllers, and every piece that touches human skin needs to be safe. Fortunately, biocompatible materials are right in Victoria’s wheelhouse, and her team prototyped on the interfaces for the Meta Quest headset, as well as the nose inserts for Ray-Ban Stories.
Her favorite project to date, however, is Digit. Victoria created a special silicone fingertip that Meta released as open source. "Digit is a gel robotic finger pad that allows you to create a digital image with the silicone pad using 3D light mapping," she explains. "The idea is that when you touch and feel something, it creates a digital texture map and you can convert that into other technology, like VR.”

The biggest thing

Victoria recalls a pinnacle moment in her career journey before she ever dreamed of working in VR. “I dropped out of culinary school. That was a pretty big life lesson in the sense that you don't know what failures are going to lead to. I use the skills that I obtained in culinary school, the ratios, the mixing day-to-day, in casting silicone.”
“The biggest thing,” she says, “is fail and fail often. Don't be upset when you fail, because we learn more from our failures than our success. My coworker Rex says, ‘You don't grow during the best summer of your life.’”
When leading her team, Victoria carries that mindset with her. “I try to foster this environment of it being OK to fail because everything is a case study to learn from. I really want the team to function as a unit, so nobody is in competition with each other. I had this great professor who always said, ‘Hire people who are more talented than you and lift those up around you.’ And I really take that to heart. I truly believe that we are the relationships we make around us, and I want to be the person in the room who lifts everyone up.”

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