Visiting UCSB to talk about Virtual Reality

My friend and computational geometry genius Pablo Colapinto invited me to give a talk on VR at the Media Arts and Technology Graduate Program in his alma mater UCSB. I met Pablo a while ago when visiting Colombia for a similar reason, where we quickly bonded over symmetry groups, OpenGL and cinema.

Instead of talking about what’s usually understood as Virtual Reality, I decided to talk about what Virtual Reality means to a person like me, currently working in the field within the constraints and requirements of an overly supportive yet confused and almost pathologically optimistic entertainment industry. In that context, there were three points that I wanted to make as clear as possible:

There are ways to talk to the Web that go beyond the page/scroll metaphor —imagine pulling data from the web like you pull thoughts, impressions and memories from the corners of your mind.
Immersive video matters and it requires a language of its own —memories and other sampled content are at least as important as simulations.
The web browser is today the most powerful storytelling machine —the web browser is the only platform we have today that can fully touch across all aspects of digital media.

The content of my talk will eventually be available online here.


After my presentation and the discussion that followed, I was invited by Director JoAnn Kuchera-Morin to play with their AlloSphere, and I spent the next few hours immersed inside the most spectacular stereoscopic scientific visualizations you could ever imagine. There is something about the AlloSphere that makes it incredibly effective at rendering virtual objects in space when wearing 3D glasses. You can almost touch the damn things floating around you. I took some pictures but none of them make it justice. Just like with Virtual Reality, you have to experience it yourself before you can fully understand what it is.

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