Human-computer interaction may be the fastest-growing field in technology, and at a forum today (Wednesday) in Ames, scientists will tell how virtual reality can help do everything from paint cars to buy winning stocks on Wall Street.
Mechanical Engineering Professor Jim Oliver says the Human Computer Interaction, or H-C-I Forum will feature the upgraded prototype for a virtual environment they call simply “C-Six.” It’s a surround-screen completely immersive virtual-reality device he compares to the Holo-Deck in “Star Trek.” All four walls, the ceiling and floor are projected from outside with stereo graphics.
You turn it on and Oliver says, “the walls disappear and you’re inside a molecule or inside a flow-field or a building or vehicle that doesn’t exist. It’s a really compelling illusion.” Iowa State is teaching one of the nation’s only degree programs in HCI, Human-Computer interaction. It’s an inter-departmental graduate degree at I-S-U and Professor Oliver says so far its graduates “have been snapped up” and are working at Microsoft, Boeing, in Silicon Valley, and in product-development, defense and “any type of technology industry.”
It may be among the first, but Oliver says the blended program won’t be the only one of its kind preparing students for tomorrow’s jobs. The convergence of computer technology and the study of other disciplines from geology to biology will offer the extra level of expertise he says they’ll need.
A celebrity guest will be Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and businessman who’ll speak and sign copies of his new book on blending intelligence and technology. Oliver says Kurzweil’s previous book, “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” was the main inspiration for developing the HCI program. “We just thought this trend of accelerating technological development, exponential growth in all these different dimensions, was going to reach all these different fields, and so we’d better build a program to address those needs in society.”
Among artificial intelligence and technical devices Kurzweil’s credited with inventing are a text-to-speech reading program for the blind and the first music synthesizer that could re-create the sound of a grand piano. People are flying in “from all over,” Oliver says, and busloads of students are coming from Iowa and UNI as well as all the program’s industrial partners that have been invited. The forum begins this (Wednesday) afternoon at I-S-U’s Howe Hall and Kurzweil speaks at 2 P.M. in the auditorium there in Ames.
Related web sites:
More info on I-S-U’s inter-disciplinary HCI program