aka @poietik

I’m a  creative director, world builder, and artist.

I work across media, product design, game design, social technologies, foresight and facilitation, from the board room to the playground. 

Here is a selection of some of the projects I’ve contributed.


CASE STUDY 234—34/2

In just 10 days: 55m+ views 465k followers 8k+ comments    

Nushi the Electric Blue Cybercat’s Meteoric Rise to TikTok Stardom

Xsolla, a global videogame commerce company, has historically served the B2B market of game developers, providing payment services for countless popular games such as Fortnite and Roblox. With the advent of Web3 technologies and the metaverse, Xsolla had the opportunity to engage a consumer audience for the first time with a novel suite of business-to-consumer offerings, represented by two mascots: Babka - a wily grandmother – and her charismatic and playful pet cat Nushi.

With plans to have Babka & Nushi make their premiere appearance at the 2023 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the branding team, led by myself as Director of Brand, needed a way to physically incarnate them as physical characters for an experiential activation. 

But beyond this “live” appearance, my team had the remit to make Babka and Nushi virtual influencers in their own right on social media and across virtual worlds via Unreal engine.

In addition, we were charged with keeping a certain amount of mystery and intrigue around Babka and Nushi given that the consumer-facing products behind them were in a pre-launch phase.

Concept art of Nushi by Design Director Anadin Attar
Concept art of Nushi by Design Director Anadin Attar
Concept art of Nushi by Design Director Anadin Attar

The Spark

The vision for Nushi’s robotic incarnation emerged while attending the 2022 GamesCom conference in Cologne. The most crowd-pleasing installation that year was a semi-robotic lego Bowser at the Nintendo exhibition area. But all it did was move back and forth a bit when you pressed a button. I thought, this is the most interactive intellation here? We can do better...

I glimpsed the unique opportunity to converge multiple cutting edge technologies – robotics, AI, live streaming – into the ultimate robotic mascot. And the timing was just right, with new prosumer quadrupeds entering the market, democratizing access to the tech.

The Dream Team

I brought the idea for building out a furry quadruped robot to Creative Producer Gabriel Shalom. Two phone calls later, and the team had connected with Hollywood creature artist, master fabricator, and costume designer Salvatore J. Salamone. Salamone’s previous credits include work with Lady Gaga, The Dark Crystal, and The Grinch and more. 

Working from 3D models built by the team’s Associate Creative Director Pierce Myers and 3D Designer Shuruq Tramontini, Salamone’s modeling process became a 3D-printed extension of the virtual production pipeline, where Tramontini had already been working on rigging Nushi for Unreal Engine and Xsolla’s proprietary metaverse product, Metasites.

...make a Nushi
After several weeks of building and testing, Nushi was ready for their debut as a public figure. Equipped with a camera in one eye socket, Nushi would not only be the subject of the team’s content plan, they would be able to stream content as well.

The Debut

Babka and Nushi appeared in the Moscone center lobby and rolled out the red carpet for developers, supported by a front and back house team of 30. I operated the robot, Babka danced, and Lorekeeper Noah Crowe, who helped the dazzled conference goers make sense of what they were seeing. 

Live video from Nushi’s eye camera, filtered through custom AI-enhanced image transformers created by the team’s AI Artist Watson Hartsoe, fed both a local video monitor rig on site as well as a live stream. Live music and scoring was provided by acclaimed composer and musician, Gabe Noel, while Sacremento Kings dancers pranced alongside Nushi and the audience. Even Esfand TV stopped by to stream Nushi on Twitch for a spell!

The Reception

Nushi’s soft launch on Twitter, Tiktok and on the streets of San Francisco demonstrated just how provocative a blue robotic cyber cat could be. 

Our team of content marketers produced a rich array of social content, diligently fanned the flames of online engagement, attentively pruning the memetic associations that Nushi picked up along the way. Supported by a modest, targeted media spend, engagement rates were out-and-out impressive.

UGC indicated people tended to either fall in love with, or love to hate on, Nushi, with fans comparing the cat’s hypnotic eyes to the gaze of the late great Eartha Kitt and haters claiming they’d be ready to steal a car just to run Nushi over, not gonna lie.

The “Do the Noosh” video series went viral, with over 30 million plays on Tiktok alone. 


Product Design & Development

Babka and Nushi tromping around the internet was just a precursur to a host of products and services released under their names, exploring character as interface and a unique approach to conversational commerce.

Simultaneously working closely with a strong internal product team, as well as external technology vendors Sprillow, we designed a novel gamer’s account and wallet, bridging web2 and web3 and a conversational AI commerce engine.

Virtual Production

We continued building out the 3d pipeline, with Babka and Nushi as fully rigged, customizable character meshes in Unreal Engine, powered by Metahuman, AI voice generators, and LLMs. 


Ultimately folding to both internal organizational pressures and external market forces, Babka, Nushi and our brand team were sunset by Xsolla, amongst 2023’s tech layoffs. 

But Babka and Nushi’s legend lives on. Their debut exemplified creative innovation at its finest, merging robotics, entertainment, and audience engagement in a seamless blend.

Nushi’s success underscored the team's adaptability, vision, and commitment to pushing technological and creative boundaries. The world witnessed not just the birth of the first fully furred robotic but the rise of a social media phenomenon.


Creative Director: Ishan Shapiro

Creative Producer: Gabriel Shalom

Creature Artist: Salvatore J. Salamone

Associate Creative Director: Pierce Myers

3D Artist: Shuruq Tramontini

Design Director: Anadin Attar

Lorekeeper: Noah Crowe

AI Artist: Watson Hartsoe

Worldbuilder: Rachel Joy Victor

Marketing Manager: Michael Petralia

Video Editor: Megan May Daalder
2345—45/42 UBU