He’s creating the cutting edge: Meet Star Trek super-fan Dino Ignacio

Dino Ignacio
Dino Ignacio

The world of technology is exciting and is seems like every day we learn about a new product designed to make our lives easier. Sometimes those gadgets resemble things we’ve seen on a certain series of television shows and films. Those are the types of things that Dino Ignacio lives and works in.

Ignacio is a Man of the 21st Century, meaning that he knows a a whole lot what’s cutting edge now, and is involved in many different projects. He just recently finished working for Facebook on a Virtual Reality project known commercially as Oculus. He was the Lead Designer for Avatars on the project, where he “focused on embodiment, representation and immersive experiences.”

That’s some cool stuff! And now, Ignacio reports that he’s just begun a new gig with Roblox, where he manages the “Avatar Design Team.” Thanks to his job, which happens to be on a video game that his daughter adores, they are both “helping shape the future of the Metaverse.”

The fun thing is, Ignacio is a big part of Star Wars fandom, but something came over him during the COVID-19 pandemic. He wanted to get involved with something very hopeful, which led him to Star Trek. Though he’s a proud member of the 501st Legion, he’s jumped into Trek head first, and has the cool threads to prove it.

We asked Ignacio a whole bunch of questions — from what he does for a living, the tech he is involved in, and some of the big video game titles he’s worked on.

A family that cosplays together, stays together. Apparently, they are both in command!
A family that cosplays together, stays together. Apparently, they are both in command!

TREK REPORT: You are involved in some really cutting edge and fascinating work. How did you marry art and science?

DINO IGNACIO: I started my college education as a Fine Arts major. My world view of what it meant to be an artist was to be a painter. I got pretty good at this but did not feel satisfied. I felt there was more to art. I then got a hand me down modem in 1994 and discovered the internet.

I made a website called Bert is Evil. It was nominated for (and later won) a Webby Award in 1998. I flew to San Francisco to receive the award. I met some amazing digital arts luminaries that night and my eyes opened up to the possibilities of combining technology and art.

I moved to San Francisco the following year and went to school at the Academy of Art. I later got hired at EA and became the UI Director of the game franchise Dead Space. I helped design and develop the holographic UI of the game. It was like a precursor to the Augmented and Virtual Reality. I later got to work on at Oculus.

TREK REPORT: Tell us what you’ve done with Augmented Reality (AR). Do you see that becoming a bigger part of life for normal people?

DINO IGNACIO: I have done more work in VR to be honest but I am a big believer in AR. We are getting closer to the next breakthrough in computing. From having Mainframes to Personal Computers to Laptops to Mobile Devices. The next wave of computers will be wearable.

The irony with the mobile computer revolution was that it allowed us to stay more connected anywhere but at the expense of being present. When people are using their phones, they are everywhere except where they physically are. We lose our connection to the people around us. I believe that AR will fix this problem. It seems like a small thing but not needing to look at your phone while engaging with the world around you will be revolutionary.

TREK REPORT: Tell us how you got into video games?

DINO IGNACIO: I was honestly trying to gun for a job at ILM or Pixar as I got out of Uni. But there were massive layoffs in the film VFX industry the year I graduated in 2005. I was up against 10 year industry veterans also looking for jobs. I ended up getting a job as a Motion Graphics Producer at CBS working on GameSpot’s video shows.

This lead to me learning more about the games industry. I then applied for a job at EA in 2007 and worked there for 8 years. I had an amazing time honing my skills there with some amazing mentors. [From there, I] worked on Dead Space 1, 2 and 3, Dante’s Inferno, Battlefield 3, 4 and Hardline.

TREK REPORT: You have experience with UI and interface… you must be a fan of LCARS and the Okudas. Tell us some of the things you keep in mind when designing…

DINO IGNACIO: I am indeed a big fan of Michael and Denise Okuda! I loved interface design before I knew what it was called thanks to the screens Michael made for the movies and the shows.

People sometimes think design starts with pretty graphics. This is a misconception. Good design starts with defining a purpose and a narrative. Once you know what problem the product is meant to solve the graphics follow. My work has always been imbued with story and meaning. I believe that design without purpose is just noise.

Speaking of Michael Okuda; I recently designed a whole bunch of LCARS animations I can use as loops for the Tricorder I 3D modeled and built. I partnered with my friends Gerhard Mros and Carl Darby who build the electronics and the software.

TREK REPORT: When was your “First Contact” with Star Trek? (when did you first encounter Trek and become a fan?

DINO IGNACIO: I remember seeing The Original Series reruns as a kid in the 80s. The first one I actually stopped to watch all the way through was “Charlie X.” I remember being fascinated by the story and was soon hooked. I then fell in love with The Next Generation when it aired in 1987.

TREK REPORT: What is your favorite show, and character?

DINO IGNACIO: I think I have seen every TNG episode at least twice. I have formed my ethics around the things I learned from the show. “Pegasus,” “Measure a Man,” “Darmok,” and “Drumhead” are some of my favorites.

I have always been drawn to Spock and Worf. Something about them living between two cultures was fascinating to me. I remember making a paper mâché Klingon forehead when I was younger and trying to learn the language from Marc Okrand’s book.

Who knew that two Starfleet science officers would ever find a use for an AstroDroid? Here’s Dino with his daughter, and his R2-D2 replica.
Who knew that two Starfleet science officers would ever find a use for an AstroDroid? Here’s Dino with his daughter, and his R2-D2 replica.

TREK REPORT: Tell us about your uniforms. How many do you have now? Have you been to the cons with your uniforms?

DINO IGNACIO: I admittedly have spent more time cosplaying in Star Wars costumes as an adult. I am a member of the 501st Legion an have gone to conventions as a Stormtrooper, Biker Scout, Ponda Baba, Luke Skywalker, Chirrut Îmwe, and Lando.

Through the pandemic though, I feel like I have needed something more hopeful. The pandemic and the socio-political climate of the last year has made me come back to my first love of Star Trek. I started to rewatch the shows and I sought out the cosplay and prop community.

I think the lockdown was a little more bearable thanks to the positive Star Trek community I found. To give back, I have devoted time making free prop models for the community to download and print.

I have put together about 10 Star Trek costumes over the last year. I have a TOS Science, a Command and Operations TNG, a couple of The Wrath of Khan monster maroons, a Discovery uniform, a Picard civilian attire from the new show, a Lower Decks command and a Strange New Worlds Science and Command uniform.

I really love my new TWOK Monster Maroon. It’s so fun to put on. I had to induge myself and shoot a video of it.