Christopher Lafayette, Emergent technologist

He is a Silicon Valley national and international speaker, thought leader and diversity and inclusion advocate. Christopher also advises corporations …

He is a Silicon Valley national and international speaker, thought leader and diversity and inclusion advocate. Christopher also advises corporations and startups about how to introduce more diverse culture into technology and he is creating holodecks and content for virtual training, education and communication simulations.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the audio visual world?

My Dad. When I’d come home at night he would be sitting at a desk with a little light on, taking apart and fixing computers. He taught me the first lessons that I can remember in technology. Further down the line I took notice of the incredible pairing between liberal arts and technology and I knew that was what I wanted to do for a career.

Which project are you proudest to have been a part of and why?

The projects I’m working on now, of which there are several. They are mainly dealing with spatial simulated environments and immersive medical technology. I’ve been studying hyper 3D constructs for years now. The fidelity factors for feel, sound and sight have never been higher. Spatial discernibility for human experienced resolution is here. We’re just putting the pieces together. Of all the human senses, sound is the most difficult to integrate and the most important for virtual and mixed reality. I realise there’s an argument that can be made for or against this way of thinking.

What would you single out as your big break in the industry?

It’s difficult to point to one specific event. When I moved to Silicon Valley I was living out of hackerspaces, hotels and from the seat of my car. At some point I began to be invited to speak at different venues on various technologies and diverse and inclusive narratives. A lot changed after that.

Where do you get your creative inspiration from?

I often craft from relatable empathy. My ideas can often be avant-garde in their possibilities. Music is a heavy influencer on my creative reach. People often consider music to be separate from technology, but music is technology. I believe art is often at its best when influenced by its own internal ecosystem of diverse art forms.

You recently launched the Black Technology Mentorship Program. What motivated you to launch the important initiative and why is it so vital?

It dawned on me some time ago that as far as we’ve come with technology and the depth of the arrival of adopted emergent technologies and how they influence entire countries, technology will never be as great as it can be until everyone has the opportunity to build it. Ecosystems aren’t a set of keyboards, software and hardware – ecosystems are people and people are culture. The more diverse eco culture you have in an ecosystem, the stronger that system becomes. Homogenisation depletes the promise of the best of what could be built.

If we’re going to extend reality, then we must bring reality with it. If we see the narrative discussion that’s happening all around the world regarding racial equality, it’s evident in business that things need to change.

For some time, I’ve wanted to create a programme that teaches technology to communities in places where I come from. To pair current technologists who have and are making incredible things and spend time with those who want to build. There are kids and adults that would be elated to peek over the shoulders of women and men here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere that make the technologies we use every day.

Some kids don’t want a football or a basketball to play with – they want a laptop, hot WiFi and a way to learn to code. I launched the programme and it took off. I had no idea this was going to happen. We have hundreds of mentors and allies who’ve answered the call. We have organisations, companies and most importantly mentees who have answered the call. Since we no longer find ourselves necessarily subject to location bias and have virtual technology to use for our main direct source of business and education communication, it simply makes it easier for everyone to speak, teach, advise and educate. I’m happy to see the progress of this programme.

What has the feedback been so far and what are the next steps for the programme?

Right now we’re heading into Autumn for our speaker and education series. We have our speakers lined up and have almost completed our educational selections. Our goals, KPIs and lessons are set. Our allies and internal teams are working very hard and it’s exciting to see.

What do you think needs to be done to encourage the younger generation to consider a career in the AV world and wider technology industry?

It’s pertinent to find ways to bridge professionals in the AV community with those who have a desire to do what they do, but have absolutely no idea how to get there. That’s a big part of what the Black Technology Mentorship Program does. We pair people from entirely different worlds, bring them together and start awesome dialogues. We need more bridge builders to bind the ties.

What steps do you think need to be taken to ensure the audio visual workforce is diverse?

Mainly it starts with a needed disposition of vulnerability. Greater educational accessibility for communities of all colours and genders is a great way forward. We have to adapt the mindset to hire the people who we want to buy our products. The more diverse your product teams become, the more identifiable your brand and product offerings ultimately become.

Can the pro-AV industry learn any lessons from Silicon Valley?

Yes. Fundamentally Silicon Valley has a heritage that adheres to strong design principles, process development and product refinement. I scoff at those cities who tell themselves they’re the “next Silicon Valley.” Firstly, they should embrace their own unique native culture, wherever they are. Secondly, Silicon Valley builds with history in tow. We’ve been doing this for over 80 years, we produce great technology because we’ve been failing for years. A lot of things you see available in the market that have been produced here in the Bay Area are ideas that were conceived long ago. These early ideas either failed in thought, prototype, lack of funding or arrived too early and adoption or monetisation couldn’t ensue. I recommend the pro-AV industry begins focusing more on telepresence, especially when it comes to virtual teleportation and augmented reality.

Which recent innovations have you been most impressed with and why?

The Oculus Quest headset. Virtual reality has finally developed sight although it’s still in the womb per se. It’s a good headset. There are others, but that’s the one I’m currently most impressed with. On a deeper level, there are quite a few AI methodologies I’ve taken notice of. But more importantly, I’m more impressed by the research and development than actual products. The Human Brain Project is fascinating, and ClimateCon is also a platform I have a lot of interest in when it comes to climate responsibility. On the audio side of things, I’m very curious to hear Apple’s latest offering of spatial sound with its AirPods Pro. I’m just not convinced that it’s cracked the code of true spatial audio resonance – not unless you have haptics built into the actual sound device itself, which it does not. At best I’m expecting a really good 1.0 offering with a great product delivery cycle by 2025 at the earliest for true spatial audio.

In what ways do you believe virtual, augmented and mixed reality have the power to enhance our world, and what role do you see them playing in the future?

The medical industry is the single most important vertical for extended reality – to better understand the physical body of which we know so little about, and to anatomically explore in ways we never have before will help us to better understand how these bodies function and more importantly, why? We have such little appreciation for what’s sitting right under our own noses. Additionally, to know more about the body is to know what devices are better suited for it. The promises of extended reality exceed the small vertical chasm of gaming and entertainment in comparison to the vastness of the health wellness community as a whole.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your career?

Not having enough capital to build many of the things that I would like to and being in Silicon Valley with black coloured skin – though none of these are truly big obstacles for me. But by grace and mercy am I able to go forward down the path of pioneers.

New Executive Board at PATA

… Jr., Chairman – Global Tour Ltd., Korea (ROK); Jennifer Chun, Director, Tourism Research – Hawaii Tourism Authority, USA; Oliver Martin, Partner …

Soon-Hwa Wong has been formally endorsed as the Chair of the e Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Executive Board and replaces Dr. Chris Bottrill who was elected Chair in May 2018 and remains a member of the Executive Board as Immediate Past Chair.

On his appointment, Soon-Hwa said, “It is indeed an honour to be given the privilege to serve PATA members, especially in a time like this. PATA will celebrate a significant milestone, our 70th Anniversary, next year. We are embarking on a comprehensive organisation redesign that will transform PATA into an association that will lead the tourism industry into the post-Covid future and beyond. Together with our industry partners from both the public and private sector, we will commit to sustainable tourism development to benefit the economic well-being of the community at large. Come join us in our journey to build a safer and better world.”

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Top Row: L/R: Soon-Hwa Wong, Chair – PATA and CEO – AsiaChina Pte Ltd., Singapore; Hai Ho, Vice Chair – PATA and CEO – Triip Pte. Ltd., Singapore; Suman Pandey, Secretary/Treasurer – PATA and President – Explore Himalaya Travel and Adventure, Nepal; Dr. Chris Bottrill, Immediate Past Chair – PATA and Director – International, Capilano University, Canada; Andrew Jones FIH. CHA, Guardian – Sanctuary Resorts, Hong Kong SAR; Benjamin Liao, Chairman – Forte Hotel Group, Chinese Taipei; and Dr. Fanny Vong, President – Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM), Macao, China. Bottom Row: L/R: Henry Oh, Jr., Chairman – Global Tour Ltd., Korea (ROK); Jennifer Chun, Director, Tourism Research – Hawaii Tourism Authority, USA; Oliver Martin, Partner – Twenty31 Consulting Inc., Canada; Peter Semone, Founder and President – Destination Human Capital Limited, Timor Leste; Vinoop Goel, Regional Director – Airports & External Relations, International Air Transportation Association (IATA), Singapore; Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Director – Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Macao, China; and Supawan Teerarat, Senior VP, Strategic Business Development & Innovation – Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), Thailand.

Soon Hwa has some 40 years of extensive experience in the Asia Pacific tourism and hospitality industry. After a long and successful corporate career, he founded Asia Tourism to provide advisory and consulting services to commercial and not-for-profit enterprises. He recently set up AsiaChina, primarily focusing on the two-way tourism flow between China and the APAC region. As part of paying it forward, he is also providing pro-bono services in mentoring start-ups and university students in his alma mater in addition to serving in several social committees.

He started the Hertz Asia Pacific office in Singapore in 1993. As Vice President – Asia, he built a comprehensive regional network, reinforcing Hertz ‘s position as global market leader. He spent 3 years in Shanghai from 2007 to 2010 and opened the first 100% foreign owned car rental company in China. After Hertz, as Regional Director – Asia Pacific, he helped Blacklane GmbH establish the APAC regional office in Singapore and built a service network covering some 80 cities. Blacklane is a new tech professional chauffeur drive service provider offering rides in some 300 cities and 60 countries globally. Prior to joining Hertz, he was Regional Manager – South East Asia for Air New Zealand.

A Bachelor of Business Administration graduate of the National University of Singapore, he is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK and attended the Stanford Executive Program. Soon Hwa’s long association with PATA dates back to 1996 and he has served in various capacities over the years. Presently serving as Chairman of the PATA Singapore Chapter, Soon Hwa is also the recipient of the PATA Life Member Award in 2018 and PATA Award of Merit in 2008.

During the PATA Board Meeting held virtually on Monday, October 12, 2020, PATA also elected six new members to its Executive Board including Hai Ho, CEO – Triip Pte. Ltd., Singapore; Suman Pandey, President – Explore Himalaya Travel and Adventure, Nepal; Andrew Jones FIH. CHA, Guardian – Sanctuary Resorts, Hong Kong SAR; Dr. Fanny Vong, President – Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM), Macao, China; Oliver Martin, Partner – Twenty31 Consulting Inc., Canada, and Peter Semone, Founder and President – Destination Human Capital Limited, Timor Leste.

Other Executive Board members include Benjamin Liao, Chairman – Forte Hotel Group, Chinese Taipei; Jennifer Chun, Director, Tourism Research – Hawaii Tourism Authority, USA; Vinoop Goel, Regional Director – Airports & External Relations, International Air Transportation Association (IATA), Singapore, and Henry Oh, Jr., Chairman – Global Tour Ltd., Korea (ROK).

Hai Ho and Suman Pandey were elected as the new Vice Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer, respectively.

Hai Ho said, “Being one of the youngest elected Vice Chair at an important organisation with a deep history like PATA is the biggest honour I have ever received. I take on this role to contribute my part to both PATA and the global sustainable travel movement which is growing with strength and resilience around the world. I am mindful that we are still living in a COVID-19 world where our fellow tour guides, travel agents, hoteliers, etc. are fighting against all odds to keep travellers safe and sound.

I am mindful that the world we are living in now, will not be the world we will live in tomorrow. Therefore, I remind myself every day to waste no time and seize any moment to learn from other PATA members, so that I can utilise my energy and knowledge to help our industry in any way I can contribute.”

Hai Ho is a high-impact entrepreneur and head of Triip, an unrivalled travel-cum-tech company incorporated in Singapore. He has 12 years of experience in high-growth firms building a range of tech products like payment gateway products, social networks, wearable hardware, community apps, and eBook apps to name a few. Hai’s experience in start-up creation and understanding in the global travel industry led him to create Triip.me, a platform that at its core is a network of accommodation and personalized tours made available to a broad audience of millions. The network’s competitive advantage is its ability for anyone around the world to create, execute and be paid for a tour using Triip.me. Through Triip’s tech-centric positioning and expertise, Hai has launched a first-to-market blockchain network called the Triip Protocol. Hai and his team are crafting a cryptocurrency that will enable travel service providers to connect directly with travellers in a new, decentralized marketplace that will drive down costs of both client acquisition and travel itself. Through the firm, Hai has advanced a sustainability-driven business philosophy of at the core of its vision. In four years, it’s created jobs for locals in 100 countries, which have made it a darling of a financial coverage in publications including The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes and The Next Web. Triip was also one of 512 members of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics – a programme by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Suman Pandey is a well-known figure in Nepalese Tourism and President of Explore Himalaya Travel and Adventure, a well-known name for diverse and innovative operations. He is also the CEO of Fishtail Air, a Nepalese helicopter company; Director of Summit Air, a fixed wing operator catering to tourists going to the Mt. Everest area; Director of the biggest business complex in Nepal, “Chhaya Centre”, a multi-faceted Mega Complex that includes a five star managed by Starwood under the “Aloft” brand; President of the Himalaya Academy of Travel and Tourism, an academy imparting tourism related vocational trainings, and President of Himalayan Pre- Fab Pvt. Ltd, a company specializing on making eco-friendly prefabricated homes. His remarkable contributions in the Nepalese Tourism Industry have made him eligible for various titles and decorations including “Suprasidha Gorkha Dakshin Bahu” from the King of Nepal in 2004; “Tourism Icon” by the Nepal Association of Tourism Journalists in 2018; a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by tourism publication Gantabya Nepal in 2017; “Tourism Man of the year” by Gantabya Nepal in 2010; and a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for contributions in tourism by the “American Biographical Institute” (ABI) based in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA in 2008, to name a few.

Furthermore, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Director – Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Macao, China and Supawan Teerarat, Senior VP, Strategic Business Development & Innovation – Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), Thailand have been appointed to the Executive Board as non-voting members.

The new Executive Board members were confirmed at the PATA Annual General Meeting held online on October 14, 2020.

Community matches $40K USO donation from local business

The Beaches Fund is a group of 30 local families, including the Ullmanns, who perform philanthropy solely at the Beaches between Mayport and St.
By Shaun Ryan

Ullmann Wealth Partners and the Ullmann Advised Fund has donated $40,000 to the USO Jacksonville to expand the services offered through its Healthy Military Families Initiative.

The donation was a match for funds raised by the USO from various donors in the community.

“We are pleased to support the USO and our military families,” said company president and financial adviser Glenn Ullmann. “This match demonstrates the big impact small business owners and individuals can have to help those military families in need in our local community.”

Ullmann said his wife, Lisa, suggested he find out more about the USO after returning from a Beaches Fund tour that included the charitable organization. The Beaches Fund is a group of 30 local families, including the Ullmanns, who perform philanthropy solely at the Beaches between Mayport and St. Augustine. In the last four years, the group has given away about $1.1 million to address housing, food and transportation issues that challenge those in need.

The USO, which receives no federal funding, started the Healthy Military Families Initiative in 2018 to provide the young families of active duty personnel with critical resources, such as food, diapers and baby formula.

Ullmann recalled that in the early 1980s when he was a junior officer in the U.S. Air Force, the enlisted personnel were always on food stamps.

“Now, fast-forward 40 years, and guess what?” he said. “They’re still on the poverty line.”

He pointed out that COVID-19 has made the situation worse. Where the non-military spouse might have been employed before, the second income has often gone away as the pandemic impacted local businesses.

He asked USO representatives what they needed, and they said they would like to hire a full-time operations person to help run the food bank. The obstacle: It would cost about $80,000 a year.

So, Ullmann offered to donate $40,000 a year for two years if the USO could raise the rest. And people responded.

A successful business owner who married into a family with a notable philanthropic history – Lisa Ullmann’s father was Henri Landwirth, the man who founded Give Kids The World and Dignity U Wear – Ullman said anyone can be a philanthropist.

“Even if you are putting money into the Salvation Army pot, that’s philanthropy,” he said. “If you are giving to the Red Cross when there’s a hurricane, that’s philanthropy. It doesn’t have to have $10 million behind it. There’s a lot that businesses can do.”

He suggested that people seeking a place to start should contact The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. Those interested in doing some charitable giving specific to the Beaches can contact The Beaches Fund. In fact, Ullmann said people looking to help can call him at his business.

For further information, go to the Community Foundation’s website at jaxcf.org.

Panama Reopens and Welcomes First International Travelers

It is not a requirement for visitors to have health insurance for entry, however, it is highly recommended. And passengers from all over the world are …

Panama has officially opened its borders and is welcoming international travelers back to Tocumen International Airport, the country’s main airport.

The reopening of its borders comes after months of strategic planning, which resulted in new health and safety protocols to ensure the protection of both Panamanians and international visitors.

During its first two days of reopening, Panama welcomed the arrival of over 300 entrant passengers from flights on airlines including Copa Airlines, the country’s flagship airline, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, and Wingo. Additionally, Panama received a private Canadian charter flight into the Rio Hato airport. Tocumen International Airport, the hub of the Americas, currently has flights scheduled to and from 41 cities in 20 countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, North America, and Europe.

On the morning of October 12th, when the operation of international flights officially resumed, the first 35 international passengers arriving into Tocumen International Airport on a Copa Airlines flight from Miami were welcomed with traditional dances and music.

Later that morning, President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen delivered an emotional message highlighting that “air travel is an essential service that moves Panama’s economy” making October 12th a day of hope for all Panamanians. President Cortizo was accompanied by Mr. Raffoul Arab, General Manager of Tocumen S.A., as well as Minister Iván Eskildsen, Minister of Tourism.

“After months of dreaming about and planning for Panama’s reopening, we are thrilled that this day is finally here,” said Minister Eskildsen.

“Living up to our vocation for hospitality as a country, we are welcoming travelers from around the world. It is our hope that visitors will get to experience all we have to offer, our cultural and natural heritage, in the safest way possible. And of course, experience the emblematic Panama Canal”, added the minister.

Before traveling to Panama, passengers are required to complete an electronic affidavit before checking-in to their flight, where they must agree to comply with all health and safety measures outlined by the Ministry of Health of Panama.

All incoming travelers, including Panamanians, must present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test upon arrival, which must be taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival. If a test is not possible within that time frame, passengers will be mandated to take a rapid test at the airport prior to customs and are responsible for the cost, which will be $50 USD. It is not a requirement for visitors to have health insurance for entry, however, it is highly recommended. And passengers from all over the world are welcomed, as there are no country restrictions due to COVID-19.

For more information on Panama’s re-opening and new health and safety protocols, please visit: https://www.visitpanama.com/information/travel-guidelines.

Businesses join third annual Leicester Design Season

Design consultancies Loop and The Unloved will curate a public event featuring design and illustration work from freelance designers, creative …

Businesses across Leicester are taking part in its third annual design season.

The event, dubbed DS3, takes place until October 30, and celebrates the city’s historically strong design sector.

The season – which will see many of the events in the form of online workshops, talks and discussions this year – is being curated by the team at creative workspace LCB Depot, along with Leicester’s designers and design businesses.

In line with social distancing restrictions there will, however, be three city centre exhibitions.

Design consultancies Loop and The Unloved will curate a public event featuring design and illustration work from freelance designers, creative companies and students.

It is viewable from outside The Unloved’s offices in Charles Street.

At LCB Depot visitors will also be able to enjoy ArtChannel, a multi-screen video installation showcasing digital art and design.

There will also be a Design Showcase Exhibition at LCB Depot, featuring architecture, graphic design, illustration, product and furniture design, interactive design, fashion and craft.

Another event will be the return of the Open Brand Collaboration, inviting designers, students and the general public to use their creative flair to show off their talents.

Love Architecture will also return with a series of seven events for professionals, students and families.

Other highlights include founder and chair of the Architects’ Mental Wellbeing Forum, Ben Channon, leading a session on improving mental health in the professions and RIBA London director Dan Sian, who will discuss diversity in the architecture industry, her experiences, and the work she is doing to encourage change within the RIBA and the profession.

LCB Depot will also be launching LCB TV, offering a chance to hear more from people in the local design and business community.

Digital agency Effect will be profiling its outreach work, which has seen it help War Child raise money to protect vulnerable children affected by coronavirus.

And the team at Leicester’s Haley Sharpe Design will also talking about their recent work on displays for the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

LCB Depot workspace manager James Burkmar said: “DS3 has seen us work closely with businesses across the city to really make this a season for both the industry and the public, to help strengthen and build relationships.

“Leicester is a quiet giant in the design world, but it’s time for us to start shouting a little louder.”

He said there would also be emphasis on a new Design Leicester collaboration for designers and design businesses.

He said: “Design Leicester will be a collective voice to facilitate networking, opportunities and growth.

“These discussions will hopefully be the beginning of something hugely beneficial for anyone connected to design in Leicester.”

The full event programme for DS3 can be found online at www.designseason.uk.