Experiencing the Future in Augmented and Virtual Reality

Past Tides
May 4, 2017 By Karena Phan

On March 22, the OC Department of Education and CTE Partnership presented on the topic of experiencing the future in augmented and virtual reality. The presentation was led by guest speaker, Mark Bachman, Ph.D, the chief IoT evangelist and technologist at The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

Dennis Cole, Director of Humanities at the OC Department of Education, opened the event by introducing the idea of the humanities and sciences intertwining through Charles Darwin’s quote, “My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive.”

Cole welcomed Bachman who explained his role as the chief IoT evangelist and technologist at Calit2. His responsibilities include advising researchers and faculty on the issues with technology. Bachman began by saying that AR/VR is moving from being more device centric to human centric. “Humans want to be in alternate realities and tell stories in these alternate realities,” explains Bachman, who went on to describe how even ancient Greek theater told an alternate reality through acting. Now technology allows an audience to escape to another world, using special effects and immersive tools such as IMAX 3D. Bachman also mentioned the father of virtual reality, Morton Helix, who invented the Sensorama. Far ahead of its time, the device uses visual images, sounds, fans, scents, and vibrations to give the user the sensation of the scene she is immersed in. Ultimately the Sensorama failed, but it paved the way for future VR/AR innovation. Bachman then discussed the importance of AR in education. For instance, scientists originally intended for AR to teach pilots via flight simulation.

The idea of VR/AR has been around for years; however the technology required to move the innovation forward was invented in 1975, when computer generated 3D graphics finally arrived.The first computer generated 3D graphics proved that we had the technology and computer processing power to make an object appear real from mathematical inputs. Bachman continued discussing the top funded VR companies which include Magic Leap (mixed reality company), Unity (a video game engine for AR/VR), Lytro (which created lighting algorithms engine for realistic CGI), NextVR (a VR company centered around sports to provide a fully immersive experience in athletics), Mind Maze (a company that uses VR for rehabilitation and medical science), and Jaunt (a VR movie production company). Bachman concluded by explaining how VR/AR are widely popular for entertainment purposes, however, he hopes the industry will develop more immersive technology that is sought-after for education and health purposes.