In a previous episode of the Interaction Hour, we discussed one potential space that could benefit from virtual reality. A group that included one of our faculty, Neha Kumar, was using the technology in the educational space, working with local teachers to develop virtual lessons that showed improved engagement and performance. Today, we return to the topic. Virtual and augmented reality continue to be among the most promising technologies, but what they are, what they will become, and where we will benefit is still up for debate. Even more pressing are the potential pitfalls – like privacy – which, without proper vigilance, could be exploited in much the same ways as social media.
In the late 1990s, the United States saw a sharp increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths – rising by nearly 600 percent between 1999 and 2017, according to data provided by the CDC. It has, appropriately, been labeled an epidemic, and in 2018 the country’s life expectancy dropped for the third consecutive year, reflecting the ongoing drug crisis and rising suicide rates. As researchers and clinicians continue to examine the quality of different approaches to treatment, many seeking recovery have taken matters into their own hands. Our guest, School of Interactive Computing Ph.D. student Stevie Chancellor, will present a paper on this subject next week at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Glasgow, Scotland. What exactly do these addiction support communities entail? What alternative strategies are people pursuing in recovery, and why? How can we ensure that clinicians are well-informed about the types of self-treatments being used outside of their care?
In the late 1990s, Professor Gregory Abowd of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing developed a tool to allow people to collect and reflect upon memories over a long period of time. Motivated by his father’s collection of 30 years worth of videos, Gregory wanted to create something that assisted in annotating and searching videos to create short memories. Around 2002, he began using this for his own family memories and made a discovery while watching one of the videos. His oldest son, who was then 5 years old and already diagnosed with autism, demonstrated stark differences in behavior and communication between videos at 18 months and others at 26 months. Amazed by what he saw in the videos, Gregory began to consider other more serious applications of this memory-capturing tool. In the coming years, it would become a key research initiative for Gregory and others at Georgia Tech.
Over the years, virtual reality has become a mythical new medium with promises of immersive gaming and enriched experiences. Novels and movies like Ready Player One have teased the potential – and raised the expectations. In many ways, though, the technology is a largely untapped resource for reasons varying from the usability of the equipment to the premium cost.
In this episode, however, we’ll hear from former Georgia Tech student Aditya Vishwanath and current Georgia Tech assistant professor Neha Kumar who are examining the potential for virtual reality in education and instruction. What are the affordances of the technology inside of a classroom, and how can issues of cost and access be overcome to ensure it is a truly democratized medium?
School of Interactive Computing Ph.D. student Kalesha Bullard does research into helping AI gain basic building blocks for how to learn more complex tasks. In one example, she describes the goal of packing a lunch box. What are the things that a robot must know in order to complete that task? The size and shape of fruits or beverages? The height or circumference of each object? The depth or surface area of the lunch box itself? Taking inspiration from human learners, including her own time as a teacher and a student, Bullard offers some input on how these tasks can be achieved.