A group of USC postgraduate students were shown around the Institute for Creative Industries, USC’s flagship research center for immersive interactive media. Arno Hartholt gave them a demonstration of the latest immersive simulated environment, the Gunslinger stageset for a wildwest saloon populated by a series of simulated characters – a barman, a hostess and a bandit. The only ‘real’ character plays the part of a US Ranger whose task is to shoot – or be shot by – the bandit as he swaggers into the saloon. The system is able to track the position of the Ranger and his gun, and recognize his voice, so that the simulated characters always face him when they converse and duck when he points his gun at them. This set is the latest in a series of simulated environments used for training and therapy for a variety of clients, principally the military and entertainment industry.
The students were also introduced to Mark Bolas, Director of the Mixed Reality Research and Development Lab at ICT, who showed them around his laboratory, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of hi-tech gizmos and inventions. The laboratory includes a large scale motion capture facility that can be adapted to operate as a simulated visualization space through use of a head mounted display. This enables users to navigate their way through simulated space. This facility has an extraordinary potential for architects to literally walk their clients through a full scale model of their proposed buildings. ICT is right by Frank Gehry’s architectural office in Marina del Rey. One wonders how long it will be before Frank recognizes the potential of this facility right on his doorstep.
Mark Bolas is one of the original pioneers of virtual reality interfaces. His research explores perception, agency, and intelligence; he creates virtual environments that are designed to engage one’s perception and cognition to create a visceral memory of the experience. In 1988, Bolas co-founded Fakespace Inc. with Ian McDowall and Eric Lorimer to build instrumentation for research labs to explore virtual reality. http://www.bolas.com/