The last two years have seen an explosion of new virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices and applications in the consumer electronics world. VR/AR are seen by many to represent a disruptive new paradigm in interactive computing that will revolutionize the way we play, relax, socialize, learn, and work. But these technologies have been around for a long time, and similar claims about their impact have been made before. Will VR/AR truly realize their potential this time around? And what barriers still stand in the way? In this talk, I reflect on some of my own personal history in VR/AR research to understand where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we might be going. I argue that perfect levels of realism are not critical to most VR/AR applications, but that designing for a good user experience is key. The talk will discuss big open challenges in VR/AR user experience, and review some of the projects in my lab that are addressing them.
Doug A. Bowman is the Frank J. Maher Professor of Computer Science and the Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech. He received a B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science from Emory University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, where he worked in the GVU Center’s Virtual Environments Group. Doug’s research centers on human performance and user experience in 3D user interfaces, using technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). He and his students in the 3D Interaction Group design, prototype, and evaluate novel 3D interaction techniques; run experiments to understand the effects of VR/AR system design parameters on user experience; and explore diverse applications of VR/AR technologies in domains such as scientific visual data analysis, history education, architecture, and construction. Doug’s research accomplishments have been recognized with the IEEE VGTC technical achievement award in virtual reality, an ACM Distinguished Scientist designation, and an NSF CAREER award.