Alice Symposium Keynote Speaker

Are We All Cyborg's?

Rachael Brady
Research Scientist
June 17, 2009


Through texting, social networking sites and on-line games (i.e. instant messaging / facebook / second life / world of warcraft) students can become addicted to communicating and living through computational technologies. How does this technical competency translate into interest in engineering? science? or mathematics? As educators, it's our responsibility to "lift the lid" on these applications and engage students in the wonder of creating your own game, discovering a new chemical result, or develop a clever mathematical puzzle. One idea is to expose students to technologies which are just as compelling but are not quite as polished. Even though the field of virtual reality (VR) can be traced back to 1916, it is still in it's infancy. Only limited by a person's imagination, new user interface devices and gadgets, such as the WII, are easy to design, create, and incorporate into a novel experience. Fortunately, just as the media began to discover the potential of VR in 1990, web browsers came along in 1994 and saved the field from being over hyped. This has allowed engineers and computer scientists to continue working in relative obscurity and discover which applications are best suited to VR solutions. In this talk, I will briefly cover the history of virtual reality and show some applications where virtual reality has made a significant contribution to science and medicine. I will also discuss how virtual reality extends our concepts of virtual worlds, computer games, and visualization, and pose some questions on what it means to live in a computational society. Let's admit that we are already Cyborgs and move onto designing a human- computer interface which requires greater physical movement than typing on a keyboard.

Rachael Brady is the Director of the
Visualization Technology Group
at Duke University.