Manjinder Benning is a well known member of the local technology community, many knowing him as Limbic Media’s CTO. But that’s just one of many passions that Manjinder has and we sat down with him to get to know him a little better...
Q&A with Manjinder Benning
Where are you from and where did you study?
I was born in the UK, moved to Maple Ridge for grades 6 to 12 and then came to UVic in 1998 to pursue Electrical Engineering.
What attracted you to come to Victoria?
My physics teacher in high school nudged me to come to UVic because it had an excellent Co-op program.
What were your first impressions of this city?
Epic natural beauty, ocean, close proximity to surfing, and lots of artists.
How did Limbic Media form? Tell me your story.
In 2006 I was working on my Master's at UVic with the MISTIC research group (Music Intelligence and Sound Technology Interdisciplinary Collective), headed by Dr. Tzaentakis, a leading expert in AI and music.
I was also playing in a hybrid live/electronic Indian fusion band, Karmetik with my research partner Ajay Kapur, who was working on his Ph.D. at the time. We were looking to add some live generative visuals to our live performances, so I reached out to the computer science and visual arts research group at UVic and was introduced to Justin Love.
Justin had actually just started Limbic Media with a professor in the visual arts department and another interactive media artist. Justin and I continued to collaborate on a number of art projects over the next year, including initial experimental performances where we outfitted dancers with wearable sensors, who in turn, would manipulate the immersive visuals and surround sound audio via their movements. Yeah, I know, super fun right?! So, that was grad school.
After grad school I worked with CanAssist, helping people with special needs express themselves creatively through the use of wearable technology and custom made eye trackers. In 2009, Justin asked me to jump onboard with Limbic Media to work on a complex 3D computer vision product prototype for the entertainment lighting market, it didn't really make it out of the starting gates. We slowly began to bring on more projects both in the artistic and non-artistic industrial engineering space and the team began to scale up.
Around 2012, inspired by Burning Man art projects that a number of our staff were involved with, we started playing around with making RGB LED lights autonomously dance to musical input. This was the birth of our first product, Aurora, which is now shipping globally with a recent installation at the Summer X-Games!
What's the favourite part of the work you do with Limbic? What's one project that stands out to you on a personal level?
Making art with each other and our clients.
Personally, developing the Aurora system with our team is very meaningful because we get to use advanced technology to combine visuals and music into one harmonized experience. On another level, I am being totally selfish because I just want a dope lighting system to use with my band...
Tell me a bit about your band, Distant Grand. I remember you playing the VIATEC Awards After Party in 2018 and you were great!
Yes, Distant Grand is sexy-sad hybrid live-electronic dance project with my best friend Jess. We have been playing music together since grade 9!
At this year's VIATEC Awards I remember you taking a moment during your acceptance speech to encourage your fellow peers to do something to help our struggling planet; it was a great moment. Did you have anyone follow up with you to form a conversation after that?
Yes, many people reached out to thank me for having the guts to say something, since they are also feeling a level of anxiety and/or sadness about the effects of global warming. Many people are wanting global warming to become a normal and regular part of the conversation. To talk about it, even though we really have no idea what to do, can be therapeutic and less isolating. It is a time of great unknowns and with that, great opportunity.
I feel strongly about our connection to the natural world and the belief that we are not separate from it. Meaning that if we mess too much with the ecosystem, then we are basically messing with ourselves. Through many years of working with a variety of self-realization techniques such as yoga, meditation, Amazonian plant medicines, psychedelics, and cold water immersion, I have developed a sensitivity and empathy for the grief that we are experiencing on a mostly sub-consciousness level. The grief in that we are facing an inevitable collapse of our civilization. Allowing myself to feel that grief is motivating me to get involved.
And part of you getting involved is putting on this Climate Change Lunch 'n Learn on September 20th at Fort Tectoria?
Yes, we will be talking about current science and the implications of an excessively warming planet, why people in the tech industry should care about this, and what you can do to help. We are also very excited to welcome one of the local youth climate leaders to speak at the event. This is all timed around the global week of youth climate action, beginning on September 20th, and culminating in a global #earthstrike that adults have been asked to join on September 27th.
If people can't attend your session, and they can't partake in the Climate Strike on September 27th, are there other ways they can help?
Yes, most importantly: get educated and talk to one another about it. This needs to become top of mind. They can also register their support and receive more information about how to get involved by completing the “No more Business as Usual” form.
Greta Thunberg has made quite the impact and inspired so many, all from staging a personal walkout; it's grown into a movement. What life lesson or observation have you experienced throughout your life has greatly impacted it?
The self-realization work that I have done to gain a greater awareness of my own subconscious has helped me realize how connected I am to all things on this planet. For me, this has had the nice side effect of unleashing massive creative potential and the drive to follow through on it.
Sept 20th Lunch 'n Learn: Climate Change: Why Should Victoria's Tech Sector Care?
No More Business as Usual: Sign up form