Speakers talk about how technology is being used in nursing, construction and law enforcement
Photos by Ralph Freso
Morpheus in “The Matrix” offered a choice of realities: the red pill or the blue? But today’s reality goes beyond red or blue; there’s also that inconspicuous green one.
A trio of panelists shared their work in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) with Grand Canyon Universitytech students at the Cyber Center of Excellence on Thursday. It was the first Technology Deans’ Speakers Series of the semester, and the first in the series to be live streamed and recorded by the department for online students to participate virtually.
The lecture, organized with the help of GCU’s Strategic Employer Initiatives & Internships, complemented what the Technology Department itself is doing in that area. That includes dr. Isaac Artzi‘s Human-Computer Interaction and Communication class, where students use mixed reality headsets such as the Microsoft HoloLens and Oculus 2 VR glasses to bring projects to life. A Research and design program team has also addressed projects such as creating an immersive crime scene simulation and human trafficking training for frontline health professionals. Then there’s the newly opened virtual reality lab, which the department hopes will spark interest among an interdisciplinary collection of students.
Speakers at Thursday’s speech differentiated between AR and VR: VR, they said, completely replaces a real environment with a simulated one, while AR only enhances the real world with simulated elements (think Pokémon GO, which puts virtual creatures in the real world). world places) world).
They then shared how they are using those technologies to advance the various fields they’ve worked in, from construction to law enforcement training to medical training, showing how these technologies are permeating every industry.
Joe Samynbefore becoming chief engineer for Connected Vehicle Optimization in Phoenix, he worked for a Michigan startup focused on turning university medical school labs into VR and AR simulations for mobile devices and the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset.
His company would go to a nursing program lab, just like GCU’s own simulation labs for nurses, and observe students as they worked with nursing mannequins or with actors portraying patients. They also recreated how the nursing students handled objects in a hospital room.
“We just kept repeating and repeating and repeating until we finally got to a point where nursing students were like, ‘Oh yeah, this is EXACTLY what I’m experiencing in my labs,’ said Samyn.
He shared some of the challenges he encountered with students, including working with Oculus Quest controllers designed to simulate hands.
“But you can’t really grab something, you can’t necessarily use your fingers well, so we had to … figure out how to translate that into interactions that are possible in regards to what we had access to.”
“I don’t have the luxury of being able to use controllers in my space,” said panelist Lon Bartel, Director of Training and Curriculum for VirTra, which makes high-quality simulators to train military and law enforcement officers. “… When I deal with a soldier in a battle room, he takes on a one-on-one physical reality with his weapon platform. I can’t have a controller that mimics where the issue of the magazine is. … It must be 100%. Otherwise I’ll create a training artifact that would actually cost him his life or someone else’s.”
The simulators are mixed martial arts type octagons with five screens arranged around a trainee. Digital images are projected onto those screens, perhaps a victim of domestic violence on one screen and then an abuser on another screen. Trainees carry a simulated weapon and react to those images.
“It’s a virtual environment. It’s not necessarily a virtual reality like you think in a headset,” Bartel said, adding how his company’s CEO switched to digital simulation after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks because he wanted to improve law enforcement training.
Bartel also talked about some of the problems virtual realities cause, in addition to controllers that can’t simulate a weapon.
It’s the ‘eerie valley’ issue – the idea that people develop an aversion to computer-generated images. He compared it to the creepy factor of characters in the movie ‘The Polar Express’. His company, on the other hand, relies on capturing human interaction with high-definition cameras rather than VR.
“I know this psychological undercurrent is occurring. … How do I find out that a soldier’s decision-making was based only on behavioral cues or on the uncanny valley – and that’s a problem. … I don’t have the luxury of allowing an eerie valley effect in any way.”
Another problem in the VR world: motion sickness VR users can feel because the speed at which a user’s head and eyes travel through space is faster than what they see in on-screen refresh rates. Also, if the audio is turned off and doesn’t quite match the footage, Samyn said, that can cause nausea.
Rosendin Director Business Analytics dr. Jad Chalhoubwho also oversees innovative technology, said Rosendin uses both AR and VR.
In construction, everything is designed in 3D, but the plans in the field have traditionally been presented in 2D. His company started using AR as it matured to present those construction designs to crews in the field: “They can see it at full scale; they can see exactly what we want.”
His company has its own application that creates 3D designs, compresses them and places them on an iPad or Microsoft HoloLens.
Head of Technology Programs Rob Loywho led the talk said he had heard that some VR technology has advanced to the point where you can see tears running down your cheeks and asked the speakers what the future holds for AR/VR.
Bartel had the opportunity to test a Teslasuit, a full-body suit that uses electrical stimulation to create sensations of cold or heat.
Samyn said he expects a lot of interesting things in computer graphics and more advancements in AR headsets, which are getting smaller and smaller.
But “we still have a long way to go,” Samyn added.
He said his team should use video game tricks to create the highest quality simulations.
“But even then we still got, ‘Oh, this is good enough to get the point across, but it’s not reality. It’s not realistic.’ I want to say we are there, but we are not there.”
The speakers also discussed their journey into the VR/AR world.
Samyn’s first degree is in audio engineering. He was a “studio rat,” he said, but what first interested him in computer science was that the studios he worked in were always broken, so he started doing electrical engineering and doing the repairs himself. A professor noted his technological prowess and suggested talking to a professor who works in AR/VR.
That professor hired him at his start-up. Samyn started with C-sharp programming in Unity.
“That’s when I started to realize that I love computer science,” he said. He moved to Phoenix – his sister teaches at the GCU – to get his degree in computer science.
Chalhoub was a civil engineer before realizing it wasn’t for him. He was doing a master’s degree when he met a professor who also dealt with AR and VR.
“I didn’t know that much about AR and VR, but started working on it. I really liked it,” Chalhoub said.
And Bartel doesn’t work directly in the technology space, he said, but his career got him to it.
Bartel’s advice to students: Be a team player.
He said his test for an applicant is that he gives that applicant a project. The test isn’t how that person did on the project, it’s how they handle feedback.
“I need someone to look at different perspectives and deal with team members who may have a different perspective,” Bartel said.
Samyn, who has hired many GCU students, said if students focus on one thing, it should be problem-solving: “Problem solving in college is: Can you google the right thing? Solving problems when you’re innovating is your problem.” use your brain and everything you have learned to come up with a solution and come up with something new.”
He stated that students won’t find a job in engineering that doesn’t pay them well. Instead, he said, “Find a job that is interesting and learn from it. That will be more important than something that will come along the way, and I promise you, the money will come.’
Chalhoub, who added that problem identification is also important, told students that technology moves so fast that much of what students learn at GCU will be obsolete within 18-24 months.
But, he said, “The value proposition you will offer to a particular company that you will be working for is: not what you know. … The value proposition you bring is how fast you can keep learning,” red pill, blue pill or otherwise.
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at: [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.