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Science/Technology

Ready for prime time

north hagerby Eddie North-Hager
A cameraman from a local affiliate shoots Ryan French from the USC Institute for Creative Technologies as he demonstrates Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan, a virtual reality program designed for PTSD therapy of combat veterans. (Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Photo: A cameraman from a local affiliate shoots Ryan French from the USC Institute for Creative Technologies as he demonstrates Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan, a virtual reality program designed for PTSD therapy of combat veterans. (Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Phil Owen, along with dozens of other reporters, stood in line for an exclusive chance to try out the latest innovations in technology at “GLIMPSE: A Digital Technology Showcase,” a daylong tech event at USC.

An expert in video games who writes for important niche industry outlets, such as Kotaku, VG247 and Appolicious, Owen admitted that many of the innovations he saw were beyond his experiences.

“This is really intriguing,” said Owen, after putting on a helmet and suiting up for Project Holodeck, an immersive 3-D platform from the USC Games program, a joint effort between the Interactive Media Division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “It is completely immersive. The action is in your face no matter where you look. I felt like I had to relearn how to play.”

Project Holodeck was just one of the many hands-on tools of the future ready for prime time at the technology demo showcasing projects that cut across academic disciplines.

“We are moving to a point where art, science, design and engineering are inseparable,” said Alex McDowell, SCA visiting professor who incorporated urban planning and storytelling to create the realistic future world of Minority Report.

During his presentation, McDowell recalled that the director of the film, Steven Spielberg, told him that they were not making science fiction but making the future reality.

That could be said of many of the prototypes on display at the GLIMPSE showcase — from the inexpensive Socket Mobile glasses, which turn any tablet or phone into an immersive viewer, to the hologram of a Holocaust survivor who could answer questions from the audience.

The glasses, which are made using a 3-D printer, were created by the folks at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The same institute also teamed up with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education to turn the memories of an 85-year-old man into history lessons for future generations.

The examples of collaborative efforts were not lost on the students.

Prashant Bhalchandra, a master’s student in computer science at USC Viterbi, teamed up with Emory Irpan, a senior in business administration at the USC Marshall School of Business, and a handful of other students to create the PC-based video game Core Overload. The space shootout game offers heavy customization, allowing players to choose the wings, engines and miscellaneous assets of their spaceships.

“We brought together people with different backgrounds — musicians, sound engineers, set designers, artists, management, producers and engineers,” said Bhalchandra.

“At the beginning of the process, we were creating the game to build our résumé and get skills,” Irpan added. “Now companies are coming to us and are interested in purchasing the concept.”

 

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