Looking for a good excuse to get over to the west side? How about a cavernous top secret (not really) military training facility with virtual reality battlegrounds and 3D hologram teleconferencing technology? Oh, and there’s a Del Taco and an Albertsons/CVS just down the street by the freeway entrance too.
USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies just moved into a new 72,000 square foot facility in Playa Vista in late October. ICT is funded heavily by the military to not only develop realistic virtual reality training simulations, but also to help psychologists and military personnel deal with post-traumatic stress disorder afflicted soldiers. The LA Times did a nice write up of the new facility complete with a mini-photo gallery of the place.
The ICT was conceived of in 1999 by the military to meld the worlds of science, movies and video games. What supposedly makes the virtual reality simulations at this facility different is the focus on cognitive decision making and emotion, rather than physical mechanics. Fortunately, if you’re more of a shoot-first type, they still do have realistic virtual reality combat simulations as well.
One of the more eye-opening glimpses of the future is their 3D teleconferencing software, called “headspin.” Remember when R2-D2 projected Princess Leia’s plea for help to Luke and Obi-Wan? Well, now you can do the same with your friends. (assuming you have access to the ICT’s sweet phone) Using some fancy tricks with mirrors and high speed video displays that show up to 5,000 frames per second, the end result is that of a 3D “hologram” of your smug mug to your intended caller.
FaceTime? Please. That was so two-thousand and late.
I’m just waiting for Santa Monica-based video game publisher Activision to figure out a way to turn this technology into some kind of plastic doohickey to bundle with the latest Call of Duty game each year. You know moms would fight over the last copy for little Timmy during the holiday gift buying season.
Want to check this place out? Fortunately, the ICT has a monthly tour of the facilities which you can apply for here. They recommend giving at least three week advance notice, so keep that in mind if you’re planning a trip to Playa Vista. I know it’s such a far drive from civilization.