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Home | Seminars and Symposia | Past seminars/symposia: Tuesday, November 11, 2014

DTC Science and Technology Innovators Lecture Series

Robotics Meets Virtual Reality


Steve LaValle
University of Illinois
Principal Scientist, Oculus/Facebook

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
3:30 p.m. reception
4:00 p.m. lecture

401/402 Walter Library

Roboticists are well positioned to strongly impact the rising field of virtual reality (VR). Using the latest technology, we can safely take control of your most trusted senses, thereby fooling your brain into believing you are in another world. VR has been around for a long time, but due to the recent convergence of sensing, display, and computation technologies, there is an unprecedented opportunity to explore this form of human augmentation with lightweight, low-cost materials and simple software platforms. Many of the issues are familiar to roboticists, such as position and orientation tracking from sensor data, maintaining features from vision data, and dynamical system modeling. In addition, there is an intense form of human-computer interaction (HCI) that requires re-examining core engineering principles with a direct infusion of perceptual psychology research. With the rapid rise in consumer VR, fundamental research questions are popping up everywhere, slicing across numerous disciplines from engineering to sociology to film to medicine. This talk will provide some perspective on where we have been and how roboticists can help participate in this exciting future!


Steve LaValle started working with Oculus VR in September 2012, a few days after their successful Kickstarter campaign, and was the head scientist up until the Facebook acquisition in March 2014. He developed perceptually tuned head tracking methods based on IMUs and computer vision. He also led a team of perceptual psychologists to provide principled approaches to virtual reality system calibration and the design of comfortable user experiences. In addition to his continuing work at Oculus, he is also Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois, where he joined in 2001. He has worked in robotics for over 20 years and is known for his introduction of the Rapidly exploring Random Tree (RRT) algorithm of motion planning and his 2006 book, Planning Algorithms.