By Courtney White
On Tuesday, March 19th TELA teachers and guests attended the first installment of the 2019 Mind Science Foundation Speaker Series. Jaron Lanier, one of the fathers of Virtual Reality (VR), shared his experiences about the development of VR. He provided insight into the development of motion capture bodysuits, used in the ’80s and ’90s. These suits enabled coders to create avatars of all shapes and sizes that could then be input into VR worlds. Lanier shared the serendipitous discovery that allowed the scaling of avatars without losing the ability to interact with their environment. It is amazing the difference an incorrectly placed decimal can make when coding for an avatar! Lanier reminded us that some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs resulted from happy accidents.
Along with the background and research on VR, Lanier presented his philosophy on consciousness, time, and their relationship to neuroscience. VR opens new experiences as people can visit any time period, soar through the sky like a bird, swim like a fish exploring the ocean, or engage in different levels of the environment. Bringing that ability to the classroom can broaden the minds of students and allow for an interactive experience that requires few resources. As an early creator of VR, Lanier is excited to see where VR, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet are going to take us. However, he cautioned about over-reliance on technology, such as AI. Lanier challenges future generations to continue applying creativity and ingenuity to push innovation forward while holding onto the goal of uniting humanity.