Mark Bolas has for decades been a pioneering and groundbreaking innovator in virtual reality. Many of what we think of as recent advances in the field were actually developed by Mark and his collaborators a surprisingly long time ago. The continuing work of his research group at USC through the years has now become highly relevant to today's rapidly changing landscape of computer mediated content, as virtual reality is poised to make the transition from research tool to consumer level experience. Ken Perlin, a long time follower and fan of Mark's work, talks with him about the fascinating journey of VR, and its profound implications for the future evolution of our shared experience of media and culture.
Mark Bolas, who is the Director of the Mixed Reality Lab at the Institute for Creative Technologies and an Associate Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has been exploring presence and immersive experiences for over three decades, putting forward his thoughts on the medium of virtual reality as early as 1989. Bolas’ decision to open-source his seminal work and research has helped to usher in the current VR revolution. The influence of his lab's DIY VR projects (FOV2GO, VR2GO, MxR Unity Package) can be seen in current commercial products like the Samsung GearVR, the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. Emerging VR companies founded by students who have prototyped work at the MxR Lab under the supervision of Bolas, include: Survios, Otherworld Interactive, Oculus VR, and the Emblematic Group.
Bolas has recently launched a new effort, The Rosetta Project, to bridge the gap between the language of cinema and the emerging medium of VR, including a fun project that brings stop motion maquettes into head mounted displays via light field rendering.Bolas co-founded Fakespace Labs, Inc. in 1988 and developed and sold VR hardware and systems for dozens of major research labs over the decades. He holds more than twenty patents and has been recognized with awards from the Consumer Electronics Association, Popular Science, SIGGRAPH Best Emerging Technology, IEEE's Industry Excellence, and IEEE's Virtual Reality Technical Achievement Award.
Ken Perlin, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at New York University, directs the NYU Games For Learning Institute, and a participating faculty member in the NYU Media and Games Network (MAGNET). He was also founding director of the Media Research Laboratory and director of the NYU Center for Advanced Technology. His research interests include graphics, animation, augmented and mixed reality, user interfaces, science education and multimedia. He received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his noise and turbulence procedural texturing techniques, which are widely used in feature films and television, as well as the 2008 ACM/SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award, the TrapCode award for achievement in computer graphics research, the NYC Mayor's award for excellence in Science and Technology and the Sokol award for outstanding Science faculty at NYU, and a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Perlin currently serves on the program committee of the AAAS. He was general chair of the UIST2010conference, and has been a featured artist at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Dr. Perlin received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University, and a B.A. in theoretical mathematics from Harvard University. Before working at NYU he was Head of Software Development at R/GREENBERG Associates in New York, NY. Prior to that he was the System Architect for computer generated animation at Mathematical Applications Group, Inc. He serves on the Advisory Board for the Centre for Digital Media at GNWC, and has served on the Board of Directors of both the New York chapter of ACM/SIGGRAPH and the New York Software Industry Association.