Who: Linda Jacobson
Company: Silicon Graphic, Inc.
Has held title for: 1 year
Previous title: Journalist
Degree: BS, Journalism
The first thing Linda Jacobson (firstname.lastname@example.org) does when she reports to the office is to clock out of the real world. In her role as virtual reality evangelist for the visual computing pioneer Silicon Graphics, Inc., she spends much of her time in SGI's fully immersive "visionarium," demonstrating the power of VR to customers including BMW, LearJet, and half of Hollywood. Otherwise, she's on the road, making converts out of "everyone from hackers to dancers to financiers." But don't think of Jacobson as just another marketer. "Other people sell computers," she insists. "I sell a vision of the future of computing."
Why does virtual reality need an evangelist?
People commonly misunderstand the technology. They think it's a video game you wear on your head — or a tool for cybersex. VR is really a new interface technology that helps us solve problems through real-time simulation.
With VR, police forces train for high-speed chases without danger, truck drivers test braking a 15-foot truck in the rain, surgeons practice delicate new techniques, architects gauge the slope of a ramp for wheelchair access.
What does it take to be a good evangelist?
It takes a fundamental belief in your mission. It also takes vision, patience, passion, a sense of humor and the ability to overcome the skepticism of others.
How do you convince people of the value of VR?
Seeing — or in this case, feeling — is believing. I let people experience the technology themselves.
How will you know when your evangelism has succeeded?
When the phrase "virtual reality" goes away and the technology becomes just how we interact.
What does an evangelist do in her spare time?
I perform as a virtual ventriloquist on my band's Web site (http://www.dcuckoo.com).
A version of this article appeared in the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.