Moving to San Francisco; joining Occipital

Two days ago, I finished the second-to-last draft of my thesis and, a couple hours later, my first full watch-through of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And now it’s time for another transition!


I’ve lived in Toronto for 6 years while doing grad school. I got to participate a ton in the improv, theatre, and nerd communities and they are all fantastic. Alas, I’m moving on to somewhere else. Pending US VISA stuff, I’ll be getting on a truck with my stuff and navigator/housemate Sean in a week and a half and heading to San Francisco to work for the amazing company Occipital.

Occipital makes the Structure Sensor, a small-format depth sensor that currently fits on the back of an iPad for scanning people and interior architecture. They ran a wildly successful Kickstarter almost a year ago, and have one of the creators of OpenCV on their board of directors. During my interview process we talked about some of their future plans in the pipe, and I’m very excited. I’m their 19th employee, and my formal title will be Spatial Interaction Engineer. I’m looking forward to developing really cool interactions that take advantage of having spatial knowledge about our bodies and the world around us.

Coming out of grad school and figuring out what to do next is pretty bewildering. I’ll write more on that when I have real hindsight. While I like developing cool, new stuff, exploiting unusual sensors and extending art practices, I’ve always had trouble with academic writing. It just isn’t as enjoyable or enriching to me as crafting something new and interesting, which is why I got into academia in the first place. I’m into creative writing (like this blog), but academic writing has always felt like hard work, like I’m wading through a complex network of academic frameworks, justifications, and citations. This would be fine if writing or documentation was part of the job, but if you’re an academic professionally, it’s the primary way your worth is measured (I might be putting my foot in my mouth if I somehow change my mind and end up back in academia a years from now). During grad school, I’d find myself procrastinating writing often, and getting depressed over it. I have much to thank of the post-docs at my lab for forcing teaching me to manage my time better. I thought of trying to be an independent developer or artist for a bit, but I’m coming out of grad school with debt, and I’d like to get my hands dirty on creating for new technology as quickly as possible. I interviewed at quite a few places, and I loved the vibe of the people at Occipital, and their excitement about really affecting change in how the space around us is understood and manipulated. I leap-frogged into interviewing with Occipital after doing contract work writing a 3D sensor driver for Globacore, a Toronto-based video game company. It was a sweet deal.

Writing a PhD is an endurance slog. You can’t hero through it in a day. Here’s my commits to it in the last year. I’ll talk more about this later, when it’s done and publicly available.
phd_thesis github stats

If you’re based in Toronto, and want to hang out before I head off, let me know! I’ll probably be announcing a goodbye thing in a couple days.

Onwards and Upwards,


4 responses to “Moving to San Francisco; joining Occipital”

  1. wow! This is very exciting! Congrats on all of the thing, from completing a PHD to getting a great job in Silicon Valley. In case you end up in Kingston this weekend for some reason – you are welcome to hang out and help me win an election too! ;)