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Michael Zyda

Michael Zyda

USC GamePipe Laboratory, USA

Title: Why the VR you see now is not the real VR


Michael Zyda is the Founding Director of the USC GamePipe Laboratory, and a Professor of Engineering Practice in the USC Department of Computer Science. At USC, he founded the BS in Computer Science (Games), the MS in Computer Science (Game Development) and the USC Games joint Advanced Games course and took that program from no program to the #1 Games program in the world. That program has been rated #1 by the Princeton Review for six straight years. His alums have shipped games played by over 2.5B players, about $100B in revenue. From Fall 2000 to Fall 2004, he was the Founding Director of the MOVES (modeling, virtual environments and simulation) Institute located at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey and a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at NPS as well. Professor Zyda's research interests include computer graphics, large-scale, networked 3D virtual environments and games, agent-based simulation, modeling human and organizational behavior, interactive computer-generated story, computer-generated characters, video production, entertainment/defense collaboration, modeling and simulation, and serious and entertainment games. He is a pioneer in the following fields - computer graphics, networked virtual environments, modeling and simulation, and serious and entertainment games. He holds a lifetime appointment as a National Associate of the National Academies, an appointment made by the Council of the National Academy of Sciences in November 2003, awarded in recognition of “extraordinary service” to the National Academies. He is a member of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. He served as the principal investigator and development director of the America’s Army PC game funded by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. He took America’s Army from conception to three million plus registered players and hence, transformed Army recruiting. The creation of the America’s Army game founded the serious games field. He co-holds two patents that form the basis for the 9-axis sensor in the Nintendo Wii U. He is known at the Indiana Jones of virtual reality and the Raymond Chandler of technical computer science.


We are at the primitive stage for virtual reality where we can see and move through and interact with either 50,000 triangles per frame on a mobile device or 2M triangles per frame on a device tethered with a very thick cable that lives in danger of pulling your $2,000 desktop off the desktop. While all of this is exciting, we have greater things that will come out into this field and give us experiences just barely even thought of.  We will see lighter headsets, augmented reality systems that project directly into our eye, tracking that becomes non-intrusive and less finicky, speech recognition that becomes first rate and AI characters we can talk to and interact with, characters imbued with emotions that react to our sensed emotions. The biggest issue is how do we author story in all of this and make it as competitive for our emotional engagement as film and the best of non-VR games. We talk about these issues and why VR is going to be bigger, badder & not just 1990’s graphics on a mobile phone stuck on our face.