Carolina Cruz on how virtual reality will shape the world of tomorrow (06-07-2016)

Virtual reality pioneer Carolina Cruz shows us what happens when the real and the virtual world intersect.

More videos with Carolina Cruz

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00:00:00 Carolina Cruz-neira: I'm Carolina Cruz-Neira,
00:00:01 and I'm the Director of a research center in virtual reality called the Emerging Analytics Center,
00:00:08 and we are part of the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.
00:00:12 And a lot of people ask, why are you in Little Rock, Arkansas doing something that is so much technical events
00:00:20 and mother.
00:00:22 And the reason for that is because there's a tremendous, a good infrastructure here to do what I do,
00:00:29 and there is actually a lot of energy and enthusiasm to support the work that I do.
00:00:35 And the opportunities for us to do interesting projects and more unique things with less restrictions,
00:00:43 not only so much legal restrictions, but almost intellectual restrictions.
00:00:48 Cuz here there is almost nothing, so there is not preconceptions, there is no baggage of any kind, you know.
00:00:59 There is no, things have to be done in a certain way. So, to me that's always been very exciting.
00:01:05 Interviewer: It's new for everybody.
00:01:07 Carolina Cruz-neira: It's new, and we are the cool group on the campus, we're the exciting group on campus.
00:01:13 That for me, is always a good thing. And this is not the first time in my career.
00:01:18 I have always been in universities where you would not expect to have the kind of work that I do.
00:01:25 And it's really, like I said, it's a lot more fun,
00:01:28 it's harder too because if we run into some complications we don't have a lot of colleagues that we can talk to,
00:01:36 or an environment where there is a lot of knowledge on the area that we do research of.
00:01:44 But at the same time it's a lot of fun because, like I said, we have no constraints of any kind in what we do.
00:01:50 Interviewer: So, you have to find out everything yourself, or your students.
00:01:53 Carolina Cruz-neira: Pretty much, yes, we're kind of-
00:01:55 Interviewer: Pioneering
00:01:56 Carolina Cruz-neira: Pioneering to some extent and we hit our head in the wall, we had to hit and hit
00:02:02 and hit it until eventually, we break the wall.
00:02:04 Because, like I say, sometimes, we're entirely on our own in some situations.
00:02:10 But at the same time, because we are the unique group in the compost and in many cases in the state that we are in,
00:02:19 in the United States.
00:02:21 Then, we get a lot of support and we get a lot of encouragement
00:02:27 and we get a lot of positive reactions to a lot of the things that we do.
00:02:33 And also, we give a lot back because around us, we are always generating other opportunities.
00:02:40 So, for example, businesses that will not consider coming into Little Rock,
00:02:46 they consider setting up here because we are here.
00:02:50 So, for them having that relationship with my group, maybe very exciting and they were like,
00:02:57 we're not thinking of going to Arkansas, we were thinking of maybe going to California or Boston or something like that.
00:03:02 But your group been there is for us it's actually wonderful because the cost of living is lot lower,
00:03:11 the ability for us to financially support the company is much easier than these other areas and, at the same time,
00:03:21 we have the same intellectual quality on our relationship with a university.
00:03:25 So, it's a mutually beneficial relationship for us to be and I don't expect it university. [LAUGH]
00:03:34 Interviewer: But what exactly is your science?
00:03:42 Carolina Cruz-neira: What exactly is my science?
00:03:43 I don't know, a lot of people ask me that question
00:03:45 and I'm not sure if I'm actually a scientist myself because I'm more trained from engineering.
00:03:51 And engineers were always sort of the weird scientists because we're always very practical.
00:03:59 So, I think that word science is more of our ability to find the root of a problem
00:04:07 and find some ways to solve that problem or at least to make it better.
00:04:12 So, it might not be deeply, deeply theoretical, a lot of the things that we do, but they are deeply,
00:04:19 technically challenging, the things that we do.
00:04:22 So, sometimes, it's a struggle because we might be doing something that is unique, nobody has done it before.
00:04:29 It's incredibly hard to solve the problem.
00:04:33 But it may not field that we just discover a new way of how the galaxies were formed,
00:04:40 or some new philosophical theory of how our soul relates to the metauniverse or something like that.
00:04:48 [LAUGH] So, we are much more practical and down to an specific point that needs a solution, so-
00:04:56 Interviewer: But altogether, what you do with virtual reality?
00:05:00 Carolina Cruz-neira: What-
00:05:01 Interviewer: Can I have your-
00:05:03 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
00:05:03 Interviewer: Theories about it as well?
00:05:06 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes, I have my theories and myself, personally,
00:05:10 I think throughout my entire career I have been a little bit of an outsider to the virtual reality science community.
00:05:18 Because I always thought very differently than the main trend of thoughts.
00:05:26 Even today, if you talk about virtual reality today, when somebody says, do you know what virtual reality is about?
00:05:33 Immediately they are going to identify with putting some sort of goggles on your face and look around,
00:05:39 some beautiful landscape or something like that. That's not exactly what I do.
00:05:45 Because to me virtual reality is the ability to create some world in the computer that again solves a problem.
00:05:54 And in order to do that, sometimes you have to be multiple people sharing the environment with the own bodies,
00:06:01 not through virtual representation of myself in the world.
00:06:06 But actually my self physically embedded in the virtual world.
00:06:09 So, I wanna see your face, and your face, and your face, while I'm seeing the virtual world.
00:06:15 So, my work is more about building large-
00:06:18 Interviewer: Can you try to explain that?
00:06:20 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
00:06:20 Interviewer: Again, I think I understand but-
00:06:22 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well, when, again,
00:06:25 when you talk about virtual reality with the majority of the community out there-
00:06:32 Interviewer: Yeah, that part I did understand, but the part you say-
00:06:34 Carolina Cruz-neira: With the body?
00:06:36 Interviewer: How to what you do?
00:06:37 Carolina Cruz-neira: What I do. Here, I'm going to tell you what happened to me when I first saw a virtual reality.
00:06:42 Let's go back to the beginning.
00:06:44 When I first saw virtual reality in 1991, I had the same experience everybody is having today.
00:06:52 Somebody put some goggles on my face and I start looking around some beautiful world, and, of course,
00:06:58 I was a young student at that time, I've never seen it before. So, what did I do? Same as everybody does today, guao.
00:07:09 But like with everything else, after that is over, the excitement is over then, you start thinking,
00:07:17 what is this thing really? What is it this thing?
00:07:21 And, again, I'm thinking as an engineer, what is this thing doing for me? Other than just guao.
00:07:28 So, when I start thinking that, first of all I was, I'm not myself anymore here.
00:07:37 Because when I'm right here in this room with you, I see my hands, I see my legs, I see a little bit of my head
00:07:46 and hair. When I put goggles, I lost all that, immediately, I'm not myself anymore.
00:07:54 I don't know how big something is, I don't know how close something is. Because I can tell this table is here.
00:07:59 Because I can see my hand going towards that table so that gives me a sense of space and relationship.
00:08:06 In the virtual world, I'm trying to grab something, but I don't see anything.
00:08:10 At the most, I see some floating hand that is not connected to my body and is not even my own hand.
00:08:16 Because most of the virtual environments, they give you a male hand, and I'm a woman.
00:08:20 I have my little red nails and all that, so it's not even my hand.
00:08:23 So I lose myself the moment I walk into the virtual reality space. That's number one.
00:08:27 Number two, as humans, we like to talk to people, we are very social individuals.
00:08:34 We're a very social, I don't know, animal. I put my goggles on, I lost all of you as well.
00:08:43 Because I might be seeing something, and I might be saying, look at that, you don't see it.
00:08:48 Cuz you don't have the goggles on. So, what I see you don't see it.
00:08:52 There's no way for me to share that with you, in the same way I share this room with you.
00:08:58 So to me, those kinds of things, since I was very, very, very young,
00:09:02 were very annoying about the way virtual reality was being approached, in general, the research community.
00:09:12 So I thought about what can be done to bring myself into the virtual space. What can I do to do that?
00:09:23 And I was very fortunate because I was starting my PhD.
00:09:27 And the professor that I was working with gave me a lot of freedom to explore whatever I wanted to do.
00:09:34 He had some set ideas of what he wanted to do. And I started doing what he wanted me to do.
00:09:41 But at the same time, in parallel, I started experimenting with some of the things that I was interested on.
00:09:47 And down the line, the professor was, I guess,
00:09:50 gracious enough to recognize that the direction that I was going was exciting. And he let me run with those ideas.
00:09:58 So I ended up developing, in a sense, a Goggle big enough that it was the size of a room.
00:10:04 So instead of putting it on your head.
00:10:06 Interviewer: It was like a cave.
00:10:06 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, I built a cave. So several, several are still in use today, now 20-something years later.
00:10:15 So you walk into this room, so because your body comes with you into the virtual environment.
00:10:21 Your friends come with you into the virtual environment. And you'll see that tomorrow when we go to the laboratory.
00:10:26 So you come with me, and then, I will be saying, look that. And you'll see my finger pointing at a virtual object.
00:10:34 The same way I say look at this table or something like that.
00:10:37 So that social element is part of the virtual experience without any recreation virtually of yourself.
00:10:46 Which is what people do these days.
00:10:48 When you do a shared virtual environment, they recreate yourself in a virtual environment. But that's not you.
00:10:55 Interviewer: Yeah.
00:10:56 Carolina Cruz-neira: That's a puppet that represents you. Or an avatar, I guess, is the right term.
00:11:00 So, for me, like I said, since I did that back in 1991.
00:11:06 Everybody's going this way in virtual reality, and I'm going that way.
00:11:10 [LAUGH] So that has been always a little bit challenging, to be-
00:11:14 Interviewer: But with a lot of success.
00:11:16 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well, that's what I mentioned earlier. I have been very, very successful knowing what I have done.
00:11:23 But not necessarily my work has been always recognized as science.
00:11:28 Because it doesn't fit the pattern or the mold that the majority of the community is going.
00:11:36 But at the same time, the work that I have done has had a significant impact in the industry.
00:11:43 Today, a lot of the car companies, for example, have caves.
00:11:48 At different stages of the design and manufacturing of cars. The oil industry uses variations of the cave.
00:11:57 Not the cave as it was originally created.
00:12:00 But this concept of having large spaces that you share the immersive space, and many others for training
00:12:09 and in many other aspects. It's not a commodity or a consumer product.
00:12:14 Interviewer: I understand.
00:12:15 Carolina Cruz-neira: It's not something that you can have in your home, obviously. But it's been incredibly successful.
00:12:24 Another industry that uses this quite a lot and is not very well known in the press is the mining industry,
00:12:30 for safety training. As you know, underground mines are extremely complex and have a lot of safety issues.
00:12:41 So that industry uses caves around the world.
00:12:44 Interviewer: I once filmed in Norway with Rolls-Royce in Marine. And they built cabins from a ship, with a steel ship.
00:12:52 It had windows all around it, all with projections of the sea.
00:12:57 So when you were in there, it was in an office, just not at sea.
00:13:03 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, so it does have the Marine trainers, yeah. Yeah, mm-hm, yeah.
00:13:12 Interviewer: Yeah, and even to see what I did, then I'd get seasick.
00:13:15 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, and I think that's the main, perhaps, scientific contribution,
00:13:17 if you want to call it that way, of this work.
00:13:20 Because in a sense, it opened the minds of many people that for maybe 10,
00:13:27 15 years were thinking virtual reality was a particular platform.
00:13:32 And my work opened the mind to say virtual reality is a concept.
00:13:37 And that concept can be realized in a variety of platforms.
00:13:42 And it's not one platform is the solution, there are different problems.
00:13:47 So depending on the problem, a cave is a good platform.
00:13:50 For some other problems, the head-mounted display is a good platform.
00:13:55 But some other problems, you see it in the lab, other kind of platforms are more appropriate.
00:14:01 Interviewer: But if we wish to elaborate, suppose I'm a student, and I wanna go study with you.
00:14:07 What exactly is what I'm going to learn, and what reasons would I have-
00:14:12 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
00:14:13 Interviewer: To study with you?
00:14:14 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well, I think if you asked me that question maybe four years ago
00:14:20 when virtual reality was not popular, the answer will be different today. Virtual reality is very popular again.
00:14:27 It was very popular in the 90s and then it went silent. And now it's popular again.
00:14:32 And I think the reason to do it is, I guess, some students that come and study with me,
00:14:42 they just think that if they do something related to virtual reality.
00:14:47 And in particularly, if they work with me, because of my name recognition then they'll get a very good job.
00:14:53 And they'll make a lot of money. So those kinda students to be in it with you, I don't want those students in my lab.
00:15:01 And we have learned very quickly to spot to those students. Because, they don't really care about the work.
00:15:08 They care that in their minds, they think, I'm doing something that is trendy, that is innovative.
00:15:17 And just because I'm doing it, and just because I'm doing it with other groups, I'm just gonna graduate.
00:15:22 And then, I'm just gonna get this very high paying job.
00:15:25 Interviewer: Yeah, opportunistic.
00:15:26 Carolina Cruz-neira: But from experience, yeah, they're very opportunistic.
00:15:30 And they don't really care about what they are doing. They care about making money, at the end of the day.
00:15:35 Interviewer: Well, what do you care about?
00:15:36 Carolina Cruz-neira: So we care about students when they come to us and they say,
00:15:40 can I work with you because I have this idea.
00:15:43 And I think with your guidance, I could explore this idea and see where it take us.
00:15:49 So that's an example of a student that we like to find those kinds of students, cuz that's how I was.
00:15:55 I was doing something, nobody had done it before.
00:15:57 And I had a professor that For one reason or another, decided to let me run with it.
00:16:03 Interviewer: When we start at the beginning, just for our understanding, can you explain to me. And I know nothing.
00:16:04 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
00:16:04 Interviewer: What is virtual reality?
00:16:18 Carolina Cruz-neira: What is virtual reality?
00:16:21 Okay well, [LAUGH] The way I normally explain to people is just, a way to create worlds with a computer.
00:16:29 Now for me there is very little difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. There are two fields.
00:16:38 And when you talk to different professionals there will be people that will be very,
00:16:42 very adamant that it's two completely different disciplines.
00:16:46 You do virtual reality, you know nothing about augmented reality, and so on.
00:16:51 There are some other groups, and I am part of those groups, but I think both of them have a lot of common base concepts.
00:17:00 And the difference is with virtual reality you create worlds that are entirely in the computer.
00:17:07 They don't necessarily have any relationship to the real world
00:17:12 or to the reality that you find yourself in that particular moment.
00:17:15 So you can be tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny and explore the world at the atomic level, or you can be huge
00:17:23 and explore at the universe level.
00:17:26 You can travel to a world that never existed, you can go back in time and you can go into future.
00:17:33 So, basically, what ever your imagination conceives you can generate that inside the computer.
00:17:42 And then put yourself inside that world and-
00:17:44 Interviewer: And what's the difference with the real world?
00:17:51 Because when you enter a virtual world, why isn't that real?
00:17:54 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well, and that's a very good question.
00:17:56 For many of the worlds that we do, they actually become very real to the people that experience those worlds.
00:18:03 There is something that we study that is called the sense of presence..
00:18:08 So how much those virtual worlds make you, in a sense, forget that they're virtual,
00:18:17 And you suddenly became so involved, so engaged in that world that that world becomes real?
00:18:23 So you forget that you're in my lab, or that you're inside a company, or something like that.
00:18:28 And you completely get mentally and almost physically transported to that new reality, whatever it is.
00:18:39 That's what we want to do sometimes. We really want you to feel that those places are real.
00:18:46 Whether you're there for five minutes or three hours, that you disconnect yourselves from the real world.
00:18:53 Sometimes they're very disoriented.
00:18:55 Because we make worlds that intentionally don't behave with the laws of physics as the real world does.
00:19:02 And it's very interesting sometimes to see people adjusting to those worlds.
00:19:08 Because something like for example Escher, you've seen the paintings of Escher.
00:19:13 You have a stair that is going up and then suddenly you're going downstairs. And you don't even know how that happened.
00:19:18 So we have built some worlds like that that suddenly the laws of physics don't work.
00:19:25 But people become very functional, it's like they always did that.
00:19:31 It makes a lot of sense that you're going up the stairs and suddenly you end up in the basement.
00:19:35 You go upstairs to go to the basement, it's just normal. So to me all these kinds of things are really exciting.
00:19:42 Of course sometimes-
00:19:43 Interviewer: And then that's real as well, right?
00:19:45 Carolina Cruz-neira: On that particular moment on that particular timeframe that you are in the space,
00:19:50 it might become very real. We have people that are afraid sometimes to move in the virtual space.
00:19:56 Because we have our floor is also virtual. So sometimes, we might be very high up on a ledge of something.
00:20:05 Or one of the projects that we have right now has one of those old rope and boards bridges.
00:20:14 That you have to cross between two very high mountains.
00:20:18 And we have people that they don't wanna cross that bridge, cuz they are afraid of heights.
00:20:22 Interviewer: But do you, do you?
00:20:23 Carolina Cruz-neira: Me, personally? No [LAUGH] no.
00:20:28 Interviewer: You don't like to do that?
00:20:28 Carolina Cruz-neira: No, I don't.
00:20:29 For me because I've been doing this so long, sometimes it's hard for me to disconnect myself from the real reality.
00:20:38 So I know in a sense it's not real, fake to some extent. So no. I can, I walk in water or I walk on the air.
00:20:49 [CROSSTALK] Yeah, and I don't feel any. [CROSSTALK]
00:20:52 Interviewer: You cross that bridge.
00:20:53 Carolina Cruz-neira: Any yes. But we do have a lot of people that think twice before they go through that.
00:20:59 Or again we might have a balcony that doesn't have any railings.
00:21:05 A lot of people will not take to that step to get out of the balcony.
00:21:09 Which nothing is gonna happen, I mean they're on solid ground.
00:21:12 But virtually they are not on solid ground so we have people that even we push them a little bit gently said,
00:21:20 give it a try. No no no no no no no. It becomes very real, and people do.
00:21:31 They have this strange dual confusion in their heads. They know it's not real.
00:21:38 But they behave like it's real so it's a very interesting
00:21:41 Interviewer: So what's the purpose of [INAUDIBLE] people that kind of environment into a computer?
00:21:46 Because they have to get used to it [INAUDIBLE] it's not real so I can [INAUDIBLE] real or-
00:21:52 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well again like I told you at the beginning we solve problems through virtual reality.
00:22:02 So one very typical problem that we're solving all the time is types of training.
00:22:08 Interviewer: Are those very practical?
00:22:10 I understand that but somehow with virtual reality we can also live in another world.
00:22:15 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes.
00:22:22 Interviewer: Or think about our own virtual identity.
00:22:28 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes, and it's also a way to sometimes communicate your understanding of the world to others.
00:22:37 For example we have worked with patients that have brain damage.
00:22:42 That has changed the way they perceive the world and how they function.
00:22:49 For us it's very look at this table and we know immediately it's a table.
00:22:54 For people to have some kind of brain damage through accidents or some disease or something.
00:22:59 They look at the table and they cannot recognize that this is a table, for example.
00:23:04 So sometimes their behavior feels erratic.
00:23:07 But it's not erratic because they find themselves in situations that they just, something as simple as a table.
00:23:14 The brain doesn't process that.
00:23:16 So we have worked with some patients a few years back,
00:23:21 where through their verbal descriptions of how they perceive the world.
00:23:26 Which I had to recreate virtual environments that we could become that person.
00:23:31 And we could understand how the person perceives the world.
00:23:36 And why that person has a panic attack when there's a tree on the path, because it does not recognize that as a tree.
00:23:44 So those kinds of things are-
00:23:45 Interviewer: Then you could solve that problem?
00:23:47 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, you can help people to understand your reality, in a sense in a way.
00:23:53 And again you can also create a completely new reality that we don't Know what it is at this moment,
00:23:59 that you might imagine and build, it and make an experience. I have a good colleague, that his sort of perspective.
00:24:09 Is that virtual reality allows you to be not only somebody else, but something else.
00:24:15 So he always gives the example, he always wanted to be a lobster.
00:24:19 So one of his first virtual reality applications, over 20 something years ago.
00:24:26 Was to understand the world, from the perspective of a lobster. And you use virtual reality, and you become a lobster.
00:24:33 So that's not really my area of work.
00:24:37 It's more, I guess I'm more from a practical perspective of, how do we solve a problem.
00:24:43 But certainly, you want to feel the world, let's say you were some sort of bacteria.
00:24:49 How do bacteria understand the world, and how do they spread themselves through another organism?
00:24:57 Well, you can use virtual reality, and become a bacteria.
00:25:00 And live in the world of microorganisms, and see how that world-
00:25:03 Interviewer: Well, that's all very practical, and I can understand that.
00:25:03 But if you try to look at the borders of your science, what's possible right now, what would,
00:25:03 we can expect in the future? That this virtual world, will become so real. Or am I wrong?
00:25:08 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah.
00:25:26 Interviewer: When you try to think about it, not in a practical way.
00:25:31 But in a way, in the direction we're going with these developments.
00:25:36 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, and I think there is a little bit of.
00:25:41 With every new science, there is always the positive part, that the science can bring to society.
00:25:49 And some of the potential dangers that can bring to society.
00:25:54 And certainly there is a concern that we might create some realities that become much more pleasant.
00:26:01 Much more rewarding, or satisfactory, than the real reality.
00:26:06 Especially in the world that we live today, there are so many frustrations.
00:26:09 We all have a lot of frustrations in our daily life.
00:26:13 And then you can go into virtual reality, and you can be, I don't know.
00:26:17 Some beautiful, wealthy person with a beautiful virtual yacht, going to some beautiful virtual island.
00:26:25 Not your small, tiny basement apartment, that you can barely pay the rent.
00:26:30 So there is certainly a concern, and it's a growing concern.
00:26:34 That we might, in the long-term future, not in the next, maybe five years, but really looking far into the future.
00:26:42 That we might create this alternate reality, to some extent, that is better than our real reality.
00:26:49 And we might all start living more those alternate realities, versus the real life, or something.
00:26:58 And how we are going to handle that?
00:26:59 And that at this moment, we are, I think, so early on what we are doing, that I don't think none of us has a very good.
00:27:10 I don't know how to say, understanding, or picture, of how all of this is going to happen.
00:27:13 Because right now, with the technology that we have? I am personally convinced that will never really happen.
00:27:20 Because the technology is still-
00:27:22 Interviewer: It will never happen [CROSSTALK]
00:27:23 Carolina Cruz-neira: With the way we have it right now. We haven't-
00:27:27 Interviewer: But you know, it's, who's going to develop it?
00:27:29 Carolina Cruz-neira: We haven't, I don't think we have found the right solution at all, yet.
00:27:37 All the platforms that we have right now and right now I'm talking about physical platforms.
00:27:43 The different helmets, or the different projectors, or the different, all these things that we have.
00:27:46 They're not transparent, it takes a conscious effort to put them on.
00:27:56 You have to have a specific technology, computers, this, that.
00:28:02 It's not comfortable, it doesn't fit well on your head, it crashes. All those kinds of things, so it is a good novelty.
00:28:11 But I think that as we move forward, people will, like other novelties, in a couple of years, everybody will calm down.
00:28:19 And then, everybody is gonna have their virtual reality set at the bottom of the drawer.
00:28:25 Like has happened with some of the gaming technologies.
00:28:28 Interviewer: You think so? This will happen?
00:28:30 Carolina Cruz-neira: Again, with the current platforms, as we have them today, I think so.
00:28:35 Because, again, there were some gaming platforms which I'm not gonna mention.
00:28:39 Interviewer: But they're [CROSSTALK]
00:28:39 Carolina Cruz-neira: But they were gonna change, they were gonna change the world a few years ago, and what happened?
00:28:45 Yes it was a great innovation.
00:28:47 But who wants to spend three, four, five, six hours playing a video game standing on your feet?
00:28:53 Interviewer: Yeah.
00:28:54 Carolina Cruz-neira: It was a really cool platform.
00:28:56 Interviewer: I think that's 20 years ago
00:28:58 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
00:28:58 Interviewer: But in the future, I can imagine that as virtual reality becomes so real or so perfect
00:29:04 or without any bugs. Because in real life, we can also get sick.
00:29:08 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes.
00:29:09 Interviewer: Or we can
00:29:10 Interviewer: Crash, too, like the car.
00:29:13 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, and that's what I say. With the technology that we have today, no.
00:29:17 But in the direction that we're going, whatever might come down the line, that is certainly a concern.
00:29:24 And there are starting to be, around the world, movements related to ethics and the use of virtual reality.
00:29:32 So there are some committees and groups, and they are starting.
00:29:37 There is some here in the US, there are some in Europe, that are starting to appear, there are some in Asia.
00:29:42 Where, at this moment, are being more kind of like, coffee-shop conversations, a small group.
00:29:50 But they are starting to appear, because there is a concern.
00:29:54 Now, at the same time, is it a concern to say, hey, we should stop doing what we're doing and not do it anymore?
00:30:00 I don't think so, because the benefits are so much.
00:30:05 And at so many levels, that I think this is something that is more education, like drugs.
00:30:13 Everybody knows that drugs are bad, but there are people who are still taking drugs.
00:30:17 Well, that's their own responsibility to make that decision, so-
00:30:20 Interviewer: But I think in every science, and every development, there is-
00:30:23 Carolina Cruz-neira: There is always something like that.
00:30:25 Interviewer: Should we do this or not?
00:30:26 Carolina Cruz-neira: But on the other hand, it's also good.
00:30:29 Because we also have done some work related to stress and depression. And again, creating this alternative reality.
00:30:36 That for a short period of time, you become, again, some person, whatever is your fantasy.
00:30:44 A very famous singer, a very wealthy person, a famous explorer going somewhere. A lobster, whatever your fantasy is.
00:30:55 Just fifteen minutes' exposure to that type of alternate reality significantly decreases stress levels and depressions.
00:31:06 And that has been demonstrated, by not only my group and other groups. That we have [CROSSTALK]
00:31:13 Interviewer: [CROSSTALK] because I would like to.
00:31:16 Of course, there is a discussion of ethics, and that's in every science.
00:31:21 But, since the discussion will be there, or come, anywhere.
00:31:26 But if we explore the path of development into virtual reality.
00:31:30 It seems to me, that in the future, you can have more identity than only your own real identity.
00:31:37 So you've become, and it's not about ethics or something, but How will that look like?
00:31:43 Suppose its 2050 and we have more then our own real identity.
00:31:48 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well we have that today. I mean look at what people are doing in Facebook. Is it you in Facebook?
00:32:14 Its not really you, I mean, you are the one doing the postings but you're, in a sense,
00:32:19 maybe exaggerating some of your postings. Not necessarily lying, but embellishing the situation.
00:32:28 We already, to some extent, are using some technologies that are giving us multiple personalities
00:32:35 or multiple identities.
00:32:37 You see a lot of discussions on how people represent themselves in chatrooms, and in Twitter,
00:32:43 and some other things like that.
00:32:45 So, I think at that level, of course with virtual reality is much more powerful because it's not just you're,
00:32:52 let's say posting a picture and say, look, big deal about this.
00:32:59 But it's actually living that experience that you're actually creating or something like that.
00:33:05 So I don't know, personally, that's something that doesn't worry me too much because,
00:33:11 again the benefits are really what I'm focused on.
00:33:15 Interviewer: So it's not about race, not at all. It's more like, I try to have an image of how future will look like.
00:33:22 Carolina Cruz-neira: I don't know.
00:33:23 Interviewer: Me having other identity. I'm curious.
00:33:26 Carolina Cruz-neira: We might be, in many ways, maybe happier than healthier because as we're getting older,
00:33:31 for example, we don't have as much energy as we used to have.
00:33:35 But one of my entities can be a very energetic woman that kinda still go and dance in pointe shoes.
00:33:43 Which I haven't danced in over 30 years now, but I can still virtually maybe do that.
00:33:49 Maybe your other identity is that you used to go and swim ten kilometers or something across some strait somewhere
00:34:00 and you cannot do that right now but that virtual reality might allow you to do it. So I think it's-
00:34:06 Interviewer: What will that do to us if we have those choices in virtual reality? [CROSSTALK]
00:34:12 Carolina Cruz-neira: We're also gonna have, life is gonna change to because again, some of the virtual reality helps,
00:34:20 like any other again, new technology too, I think the way we work is gonna change. So as we are all having more.
00:34:28 Right now, we're in a strange, in my opinion, transition technology era.
00:34:32 Where we are having a lot of technologies that make our jobs easier. But at the same time, they're giving us more work.
00:34:40 Like, for example, email. Email has facilitated communications tremendously. But at the same time.
00:34:46 Our community in so we can never clear that inbox queue.
00:34:51 We're always busy trying to clear our email, so we communicate so much now that it's keeping us busier, but again,
00:34:59 looking into the future, many of these things get resolved
00:35:02 and that translates into us having other time that we can use for more quality time or something else.
00:35:09 So I think maybe in the future virtual reality is gonna help us to do our normal everyday work life easier in some ways.
00:35:19 Like we have worked with companies for example that in the last ten years,
00:35:25 their timeframe from the concept of a product to the product being in the market was in between seven
00:35:34 and nine years period.
00:35:36 With the introduction of virtual reality, doing virtual testing, the virtual prototyping,
00:35:40 bringing customers from the virtual status of the [INAUDIBLE] and all that,
00:35:45 their cycle now has reduced to about two years.
00:35:50 That has released a lot of the people in that company a tremendous amount of work that they can use for something else.
00:35:59 I don't know, it's hard to imagine a future, but at the same time,
00:36:02 I think it could potentially be a more relaxed future, maybe a happier future, because again,
00:36:12 it's a few minutes of escaping being, doing. You know, I love the ocean. And we don't live by the ocean.
00:36:20 We live in the middle of Arkansas right now.
00:36:22 So it would be great if I could spend 30 minutes every day sitting by the ocean and feeling the breeze,
00:36:29 that alone just, I'll be happy for the rest of the afternoon,
00:36:34 or something like that versus kind of here like it's hot and humid.
00:36:38 It's been six months since I've seen the ocean or something like that. I don't know. I think.
00:36:43 Interviewer: Do you still have to do things when you have virtual
00:36:47 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well, of course. Of course because-
00:36:51 Interviewer: What is left? What do you have to do yourself?
00:36:55 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well, same as what you do in life. I mean, the virtual reality is not a passive reality.
00:37:04 It's an active reality, so in real life you don't sit on a chair and stare at the ceiling.
00:37:12 [LAUGH] You have to do things. You have to open a can of Coke. You have to turn on the lights.
00:37:19 You have to look out the window. You have to do something.
00:37:24 Interviewer: What if you live in a virtual world, maybe you neglect your self? I don't know.
00:37:28 Carolina Cruz-neira: No.
00:37:29 Interviewer: You can get to drink or
00:37:31 Carolina Cruz-neira: No, you mean neglect your physical needs. Yes. That's a good point yes.
00:37:38 You might, I don't know, it would be, I don't think anybody has done any studies on that
00:37:42 but I'm assuming the physical part of your body, the sensation of being hungry or thirsty
00:37:50 or wanting to go to the restroom or something that would probably is still kicking.
00:37:55 I mean, I don't think that virtual reality will override some of our basic survival instincts, or something like that.
00:38:06 I will surprised if that happens.
00:38:09 We talk about sensory substitution, but I don't think that you can do a virtual space is so real
00:38:15 and so exciting that you don't feel hungry or something like that.
00:38:19 Interviewer: But you can imagine that you have another reality that you go to a restaurant and you eat a lot of food
00:38:22 and not get fat.
00:38:24 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah I don't know, but I still there is the there are.
00:38:35 Interviewer: But it's possible will have right?
00:38:38 Carolina Cruz-neira: There are groups that are actually developing
00:38:40 Interviewer: Okay.
00:38:40 Carolina Cruz-neira: Virtual taste and virtual smells you know?
00:38:44 So potentially yes or potentially you might beyond the virtual environment and just have virtual tastes of the food
00:38:51 and actually not be eating anything.
00:38:53 But I still think that there is some primordial, basic survival instincts that sooner
00:38:59 or later your stomach is gonna be like, okay, this virtual taste is delicious
00:39:05 but my tummy still has not received anything [LAUGH]
00:39:07 Interviewer: What's the difference then between our own reality, virtual reality, and our instincts?
00:39:13 What's the difference? Why can't wait fake our instincts?
00:39:17 Carolina Cruz-neira: I think that we can fake a lot.
00:39:22 Like I told you, we get people that will not walk off a balcony In the virtual environment.
00:39:30 So that's a survival instinct that the virtual environment actually figures.
00:39:34 Interviewer: But that's one we can't get used to because we know we can really fall down.
00:39:34 So it's just a trick and if you know the trick Then you can walk
00:39:38 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well I can, it depends on how real is real, the virtual world because we can make you fall down
00:39:48 and we can hit you pretty hard if we can put you in a motion platform
00:39:53 or put you in some kind of Device that actually makes you feel the fall and actually hurt yourself,
00:39:59 if we wanna go to that level. So, in my lab we don't do that right now, [LAUGH] you know?
00:40:06 But in previous locations that I was before,
00:40:08 we actually had robotic type of systems that were around your body that as you were interacting in the virtual space,
00:40:20 the robotics were giving you physical feedback of the world, you know so.
00:40:24 Interviewer: Physical feed back. That's nicely said.
00:40:27 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, yeah so you could actually touch a virtual object and feel, or you could grab something
00:40:33 and feel the weight of that virtual object. Again, depending on how real is real, you can actually make it happen.
00:40:39 But assuming, again, with the technology that we have today you know there are some instincts that again we trigger.
00:40:47 We don't necessarily intentionally do it when we build the worlds, but we observe that
00:40:53 when we have people testing our spaces, you know.
00:40:57 So sometimes we don't realize something and then when we have people in our virtual spaces we notice things
00:41:05 and we're like whoa, we didn't think about that one, you know?
00:41:08 Because, like I said earlier, there's a lot of things we don't know yet,
00:41:12 we don't understand yet what this technology really does to our head.
00:41:20 Interviewer: Of course that's what interests me.
00:41:22 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
00:41:23 Interviewer: Because we try to explore the borders of science and what's there in the future waiting for us.
00:41:34 And if you, if you continue the way it does like this with the development of virtual reality,
00:41:42 you can imagine that we have realities which are so real, where you can live in
00:41:51 or you can create a new identity for yourself. It kind of makes of reality. What is still real and what is not?
00:41:56 So at some point virtual reality becomes real reality.
00:41:59 Carolina Cruz-neira: And they might become, for you or for me or for other people,
00:42:12 the reality that you prefer to be versus the real reality.
00:42:16 And as you know, that has been around in science fiction for a long time.
00:42:19 There are,
00:42:21 for example Asimov has a few novels where it's a society in which humans don't wanna have face-to-face contact anymore
00:42:30 because they prefer the virtual contact.
00:42:33 It's to them almost a physical contact, almost repulsive, they don't wanna do that anymore.
00:42:39 So certainly, like I said earlier, if we want to think on the pessimistic extreme side of things,
00:42:51 maybe we can go that way.
00:42:52 Interviewer: Or optimistic.
00:42:54 Carolina Cruz-neira: On a positive way, hey, if your virtual reality makes you a better person,
00:43:01 makes you enjoy your life better, then what's the big deal about it? I don't know.
00:43:11 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
00:43:12 Interviewer: I have another, I have a virtual identity which I like and I created that identity myself, right?
00:43:24 Is it logical to think that any virtual identity I create myself,
00:43:28 or is it also possible that my identity will be influenced by other elements or other people? Do we have control?
00:43:36 Carolina Cruz-neira: I think-
00:43:43 Interviewer: You know about my virtual identity.
00:43:46 Carolina Cruz-neira: My personal opinion is probably yes, because, again,
00:43:51 it's an identity that you are creating digitally in a computer.
00:43:55 So you can decide how much you let others to influence your identity versus you have full control of your identity.
00:44:03 Again, at a very simplistic level, look at people doing social media.
00:44:08 Some of us share everything with entire world and we let the world sort of, in a sense,
00:44:15 influence how we appear to the world in our social media
00:44:21 and some of us have a lot of restrictions where we have a very limited group of people that can influence our
00:44:27 conversations
00:44:28 and in that way maybe we don't necessarily are informed of everything else that happens because we didn't do it.
00:44:34 So that's a simplistic level but again, it's a digital reality, so you can define,
00:44:45 in the future you could say I want to be a virtual hermit, so my reality is mine and mine alone
00:44:53 and I just don't want anybody else to distort it to some extent or you know, hey I have a really cool reality
00:45:06 and I want to share that with my friends or with the rest of the world and let us see where this goes.
00:45:14 I let other people evolve it with me and see where this takes us.
00:45:19 Because I think everything at this moment is an open possibility again mediated by.
00:45:27 Interviewer: Sorry.
00:45:28 Carolina Cruz-neira: Again, thinking as an engineer mediated by how we build the tools and the systems
00:45:35 and the platforms and all those kinds of things to make these things happen because today is not possible.
00:45:43 And normal, let's say an average person that is not at the level of technology that we have
00:45:50 and other people around the world has, they cannot do that right now.
00:45:57 It's not very easy to create these realities right now. You have to have a certain training to be able to do it.
00:46:02 But you know that it will be possible in the future? In a very far future, yes.
00:46:09 Interviewer: So now everybody has a computer but there were days that people thought well,
00:46:13 computers are only for experts, or for companies.
00:46:16 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well,
00:46:17 if I can digress for a moment I'm gonna talk about a little bit about what you're mentioning right now,
00:46:21 because that something that right now is a very big concern of mine. A personal concern that I have.
00:46:28 Interviewer: What is?
00:46:28 Carolina Cruz-neira: Which is, the fact that many people today,
00:46:32 they think they are virtual reality developer experts because everybody today, as you say,
00:46:42 has a computer because gaming industry has proliferated very quickly.
00:46:48 Everybody has a fairly good computer at home that can do pretty good graphics, pretty good animations
00:46:55 and those kinds of things.
00:46:59 So there are some tools out there that are open source,
00:47:03 or free licence tools that people can get their hands on pretty easily.
00:47:10 And now suddenly we're seeing all these virtual reality experts popping up everywhere because they think that because
00:47:19 they grabbed the tool, they do a few pretty 3D models and they put it on Google Cardboard for example.
00:47:27 Suddenly, [SOUND] I'm the big virtual reality expert, well.
00:47:31 I, this is something that is a frustration of mine because this is not.
00:47:37 Interviewer: Is it hard for the development?
00:47:38 Carolina Cruz-neira: There is many other things behind that.
00:47:40 Because you guys are producing a documentary, so you know that everybody nowadays can get a digital camera.
00:47:48 But am I gonna produce a documentary at the level of quality that you're gonna do it? No.
00:47:53 Because the further I can get a camera and I shoot off somebody's face
00:47:57 and hold it still that doesn't make me a good director.
00:48:02 Because there is all the lights, there is the questions that you are making me and the experience that we all have.
00:48:09 The same thing happens in virtual reality. Yeah you can get it too. But do you know what your technical parameters are?
00:48:16 Interviewer: Is it necessary that these developments also have
00:48:19 Carolina Cruz-neira: Absolutely,
00:48:22 for example if you generate a world there is a certain speed at which that world needs to be presented to the user.
00:48:31 Otherwise the user plain and simple is going to get really, really, really sick right off the bat.
00:48:38 Now many, many people don't understand that, they just start putting 3D worlds in their 3D models and all that.
00:48:45 They have a horrible performance. They are not even synchronized.
00:48:49 One eye is going this way, the other eye is going the other way.
00:48:51 [LAUGH]
00:48:53 And my issue is that those kinds of applications sometimes aren't the first virtual reality experience for many people.
00:49:02 And we're starting to see more and more people coming in our laboratory saying, no, no, I don't wanna try a thing here.
00:49:10 I already tried virtual reality and it made me very, very sick. So there's this immediate rejection.
00:49:16 And I'm, well I'm not a high school kid that just got my hands on some free license something
00:49:22 and just slapped together a pretty model.
00:49:25 We have been doing this very scientifically, very consciously with all the right approach and constraints and years
00:49:35 and years of experience. So please try it. No, no, no, no, no.
00:49:40 And that is unfortunately happening more and more and more.
00:49:43 And all these sort of things that we've been talking about, when they'll happen.
00:49:48 If this other thing continues proliferate, because if the experience that the people have are negative experiences,
00:49:54 there's going to be rejection. And that happened back in the 90's.
00:49:58 Interviewer: So can you tell me again what time are living in?
00:50:01 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes!
00:50:02 So I was mentioning to you that I do talk a lot around the world about what I do
00:50:08 and also my vision of what I think virtual reality is gonna go.
00:50:14 And I am pretty convinced that we're living in one of those human history changing times, you know?
00:50:21 That right now we don't see it because we're living it.
00:50:24 But I think generations into the future, maybe 200 years from now, 300 years from now,
00:50:30 people might be referring to this time as the virtual reality revolution like the industrial revolution
00:50:36 and information revolution.
00:50:39 I think, we're at a point that what we are doing I think is going to change our world as we know it.
00:50:46 It's going to change how we live as humans and how we identify ourselves as humans.
00:50:53 And of course we don't know it because we're living here right now.
00:50:56 But again, I'm pretty convinced that we won't see it, but in a few 100 years or no we'll be in the textbooks and say,
00:51:03 the 2015's, the 2020's was the peak of the virtual reality revolution where all this was happening.
00:51:13 It's hard like always to imagine how the future is going to look like but again is, I think is
00:51:18 Interviewer: Can you give it a try to for me?
00:51:19 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH] I can give it try.
00:51:21 Interviewer: So suppose in 200 years, there you are.
00:51:23 Carolina Cruz-neira: There we are. I think.
00:51:25 Interviewer: What are you doing?
00:51:27 Carolina Cruz-neira: I'm doing a lot of things. I mean right now there's a lot of things that I cannot do.
00:51:34 Either because of physical limitations.
00:51:37 Interviewer: I mean that suppose
00:51:38 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yep.
00:51:39 Interviewer: In 200 years what are you doing?
00:51:40 Carolina Cruz-neira: What am I be doing?
00:51:42 Well you know I will be right now and saying it's super hot at this particular moment.
00:51:47 And I really want to go to the beach. So, I'll see you there in five seconds. I'm gonna go, I'm gonna go to the beach.
00:51:55 I'm gonna get the cool breeze of the ocean. I'm gonna smell the beautiful, salty air.
00:52:00 And I'm gonna forget about all this fogginess and humidity of July in Arkansas, for whatever time I'm in there.
00:52:09 My child might decide that he wants to go to some amusement park,
00:52:13 but I don't have the time to physically take him there or maybe we don't have the finances to go there.
00:52:22 But my son might say, okay, mommy, I'm just gonna go and visit this amusement park for the next two hours,
00:52:29 so don't bother me. [LAUGH] So I think that's an example.
00:52:33 Or my car just broke down and I have no idea how to fix this car.
00:52:39 But I'm just gonna go into some reality that is just gonna somehow help me fix that car and get it better.
00:52:46 Or since I cannot go with my real car, then I'm gonna go into some virtual reality
00:52:51 but I'm gonna go what I was gonna go, but I cannot go. So I think that it's gonna be.
00:52:56 Carolina Cruz-neira: I tend to tell people what we can do with virtual reality we're limited somebody's imaginations.
00:53:06 And I think right now our imagination is still very constrained by real life.
00:53:10 So it's very hard to imagine a world that is not physically constrained. And it might not be my generation.
00:53:18 It might be the next generation after us that actually has a much more free mind to imagine,
00:53:27 because I think right now we're so tangled on developing the technology,
00:53:31 that we have not freed up our minds yet of what this thing really can do.
00:53:35 But again the ability to go there, whatever that there is, it just opens.
00:53:43 Again, a time in human history that is completely different from everything else that we have right now.
00:53:49 Interviewer: That sounds very exciting.
00:53:50 Carolina Cruz-neira: To me it's very exciting. Here I am. I've been doing this since I was a younger student.
00:53:56 And people say hey don't you get bored? And I'm like no.
00:53:59 As a difference for example lets say, with maybe a biologist that spends his
00:54:06 or her entire career looking for a particular drug to cure a disease.
00:54:11 I had to spend my entire life in 100s, 1,000s of different realities, experiences, worlds.
00:54:21 I have seen things that I have never seen before. I've been in places that I can not be otherwise.
00:54:26 I've been in 15th century India for example
00:54:29 and I have participated in some religious ritual that doesn't happen any more in real life.
00:54:36 We have been into the future and trying to figure out how life in Mars is going to be.
00:54:42 I have traveled through galaxies.
00:54:45 I had gone down inside a plant cell and I actually travelled inside a water molecule
00:54:50 and see photosynthesis from the inside. Do I get bored?
00:54:53 No, I don't because I live many, many lives and I've experienced worlds that don't exist, in a way.
00:55:02 And I experience worlds that exist. But I can not physically experience them.
00:55:07 So to me, is really cool, is really exciting. Like I said, what are we gonna do 100 years from now, 200 years from now?
00:55:16 I don't know.
00:55:17 I mean, it's hard to imagine because again, could you imagine riding a water molecule
00:55:22 and follow the water molecule inside a plant cell.
00:55:25 You couldn't imagine that, well we've done it and we done that routine in our lab for example.
00:55:31 So, how to see beyond that is, sometimes it feels like having broken my iron chains here yet. But we're trying. [LAUGH]
00:55:44 Interviewer: Well, that's a promising thought that we now. Learn the techniques.
00:55:49 But we don't accidentally use our imagination of what's possible with those new techniques.
00:55:54 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah and to me that's what's exciting to see the little ones.
00:56:06 I have a six year old son and to me sometimes watching him in virtual reality opens my own mind sometimes.
00:56:19 Because his mind is not constrained as my mind is.
00:56:24 Because we have, right now,
00:56:27 I think we have four generations concurrently living as it relates not only to virtual reality,
00:56:33 but to technology in general.
00:56:35 And again it's a unique time in history because all the issues related to health
00:56:40 and quality of life have been are the best in human history,
00:56:44 so now we have people that are living well into their 80s and 90s having a perfectly functional life.
00:56:50 So we have elderly people that have been their entire life without technology, and now in their '60s, '70s,,
00:56:59 '80s are facing technology.,
00:57:02 So when you put those people in virtual reality [LAUGH] my best way to describe it is just adorable.
00:57:10 It's just adorable [LAUGH] because they're just like, they just sit there and they're like [LAUGH] and they just don't,
00:57:22 they can not even comprehend what it is that they're looking at, they are very afraid of moving,
00:57:28 they just kinda look around and they are like, thank you dear but that's it.
00:57:32 Then you get people like us, the next sorta group of people where technology came when we were already professionals,
00:57:41 very young professionals. So we have to develop our professional life with this technology around us.
00:57:48 So I think we are the tinkers. Because we are the ones that were like, how this thing works.
00:57:56 What can I do with this thing?
00:57:58 So for us, the mystery is not so much on more of the vision of what this thing is gonna do for the life of the humans.
00:58:10 For us, the mystery is, what's under the hood? And how this thing works.
00:58:15 And that's really what my generation is really focused on.
00:58:18 Then there's the next generation, which is the people that are now maybe in their 20s or so.
00:58:24 And this technology came to them when they were kids, but older kids like teenagers or so.
00:58:32 So for them it was like this I have it whatever. I'm texting, I'm doing this, I'm doing that.
00:58:40 It's cool, I can play video games, I can do this. So for them it's something that is a cool factor.
00:58:49 And then you have the little ones that are being born into this, like my son.
00:58:53 My son, because we are researchers, he's literally been in virtual reality since he was even,
00:59:00 I have pictures of him in the little basket as a newborn inside a cave and things like that. For him, it's just
00:59:07 Carolina Cruz-neira: It's just like a refrigerator, it's just there.
00:59:13 So he doesn't wonder about it, he's not afraid of it.
00:59:19 He's not curious about how it works, where he is curious is what happens in here.
00:59:28 His perspective is he gets into a virtual environment and he just wants to do things in there.
00:59:37 He doesn't think about how difficult it is or how uncomfortable the gear is.
00:59:43 He is immediately mentally there and he just wants to be there.
00:59:49 And then he started asking a lot of interesting questions because he wants to do things that he can not do.
00:59:55 And for him, that doesn't have any logic.
00:59:57 Because, again, he's mentally there, so he has, in his mind he has a concept of how this thing needs to respond to him,
01:00:07 and its not responding to him, so sometimes he gets frustrated.
01:00:10 Interviewer: He's the first one with limitations.
01:00:12 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, because his mind is way beyond my mind.
01:00:19 So when he sees my constraints implemented on the system, he gets frustrated, because he wants to really go a dare,
01:00:28 but it's a dare that I don't understand it yet. Because I'm still busy looking under the hood.
01:00:34 So I think for me, the fact that I think in our case, we're very fortunate, because he's the whole family.
01:00:42 [LAUGH] Cuz my husband is part of the the same research that I do
01:00:46 and now our son pretty much lives with us in the lab whenever he's not in school.
01:00:53 So we have an interesting perspective on doing this.
01:00:57 And in some cases like I said, he, our little son, sometimes opens our minds just because we see his frustrations,
01:01:04 cuz he expects some things that are not happening. But we didn't even think about them.
01:01:12 Because we were too busy tinkering. So this is, as he is getting a little older, I think it's gonna be.
01:01:20 If he continues being interesting, because who knows what he's gonna develop [LAUGH] as he grows up.
01:01:26 But I think it's gonna interesting to see his unrestricted mind, and I do mention earlier,
01:01:35 he might develop different identities that I'm not thinking about, but he might decide that.
01:01:43 We just got some recent equipment in our laboratory,
01:01:46 and he mastered that equipment before any of our graduate students.
01:01:53 And watching him using that particular equipment, it was absolutely amazing.
01:01:58 The students got the technology, look around, and couldn't think of anything to do with it.
01:02:10 He could have spent hours, days, doing things with it. And we were like, where did he learn to do that?
01:02:19 It's amazing, it's just amazing to see that. So I think we have those different generations.
01:02:25 And it's very very interesting because again, I have my other partners
01:02:30 and watching them sometimes their reaction is the total opposite.
01:02:34 They're more constrained, because they don't even wanna move.
01:02:39 Because they fear they're gonna break something or they're not sure what to expect..
01:02:44 Where then the little ones [SOUND] There's someone else that we don't even know [LAUGH] where they are.
01:02:50 So that's amazing.
01:02:51 Interviewer: Yeah, that sounds beautiful. I'm looking forward to seeing him playing with the things.
01:02:57 Well playing, it's not even playing. It's.
01:03:00 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, it's.
01:03:02 He travels with us sometimes when we do professional events and he actually he is in the booth doing demos
01:03:09 and its really, really fun watching him explaining his interpretation of our work.
01:03:17 It's just really amazing, because in most cases he just observes a little bit, what the grad students are doing
01:03:26 and he just takes it to a complete different level immediately.
01:03:31 I mean he doesn't even know how to read, but it's just again, his mind is somewhere else that I cannot go there.
01:03:39 I'm too constrained with my own knowledge of the technology to let me go there. Where he doesn't care.
01:03:48 Interviewer: Is he reading an old reality?
01:03:50 Carolina Cruz-neira: I don't, what?
01:03:52 Interviewer: Reading and alter reality.
01:03:54 Carolina Cruz-neira: What do you mean by that?
01:03:58 Interviewer: Well, he cannot even read and he doesn't even need to read to-
01:04:04 Carolina Cruz-neira: No, He doesn't need, no, he just.
01:04:08 Again he's, not only he, we talk about my son because I probably see him all the time, but
01:04:16 when he brings his little friends to the lab sometime, it's the same thing.
01:04:21 They all, they are little kindergartener's and they again, then they start doing things, manipulating the space.
01:04:33 Creating their own worlds in there with a freedom that we don't have.
01:04:41 And again, they don't know how to read, they don't know how to write yet. They're learning that in kindergarten.
01:04:47 But it's not about that. It's about their mental understanding of the world or something.
01:04:55 They grew up with TVs, with iPads, with all those things.
01:04:57 So for them it's just as normal as a refrigerator in the house.
01:05:04 Interviewer: Is that what he is developing in other children from his age?
01:05:09 Can you call that like the minds of the universe?
01:05:12 Carolina Cruz-neira: Certainly, it would be the mind of the universe for the future of course, because,
01:05:18 I mean every generation has a new mind set on, not only technology, but just humanity and the world.
01:05:27 So yeah, these are the new minds of the new universe.
01:05:31 Because the new universe is not going to be on the, the universe as we know it today with the planets
01:05:36 and the galaxies and all the beautiful formations.
01:05:39 It's a completely limitless universe because it's going to come out of our imagination. So it's new minds, absolutely.
01:05:49 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH] What?
01:05:52 Interviewer: I was thinking because it is beautiful, because our new universe is coming from our imagination.
01:05:58 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes.
01:05:58 Interviewer: That's what you said.
01:06:00 Carolina Cruz-neira: That's what I said. The new universe, it doesn't have physical constraints.
01:06:08 Because again, we can't create it in the computer.
01:06:14 The real universe will still be there, and all the real problems like pollution, global warming, crime,
01:06:21 socialist status, of course those are going to be there and that's outside my expertise to prepare the work for it,
01:06:30 but.
01:06:30 Interviewer: Since you are making it there your comment,
01:06:33 that we won't recognize the virtual world anymore as a virtual one.
01:06:37 Carolina Cruz-neira: We might get to the point. I think we will get to the point.
01:06:41 Not in my generation, but we are getting to the point because again we go back to what I was.
01:06:45 Interviewer: Which point?
01:06:46 Carolina Cruz-neira: Were we don't know the difference between real and virtual.
01:06:50 Because we go back to my earlier comment that is people that differentiate between virtual reality
01:06:55 and augmented reality, and I don't, I think it's in a sense the same.
01:07:01 Because the virtual reality and the computer with augmented reality, you can blend it into the real world.
01:07:10 So that's really for me where the future is.
01:07:13 Where virtual reality and augmented reality converge, because now your real reality
01:07:20 and your virtual reality are intermingled and not different from each other.
01:07:29 So again, we can be looking out that window and I'm looking at the river, but through augmented reality I might see,
01:07:36 I don't know, some mythical dragon flying by instead of the birds. It's my reality.
01:07:46 Because I want to see dragons flying around through my window. I still see the river.
01:07:52 I still see the same things you see. I see the real trees. I see the barges coming down the river.
01:07:56 But I have my dragons flying around. That's my reality.
01:07:59 Interviewer: What is that? If we have a real identity, a physical identity, we have a virtual identity.
01:08:06 What is the common thing we keep untouched? Is that the mind or is that instinct or what is it?
01:08:14 What is it that which makes us, us with all our identities.
01:08:18 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH] I don't know, I think the definition of us again changes the history
01:08:37 and again we are on that changing time in history so.
01:08:41 Interviewer: What is the thing that's-
01:08:43 Carolina Cruz-neira: What makes me? [LAUGH]
01:08:46 Interviewer: And you with definite identities, but it's still you.
01:08:50 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well I think what's gonna make me is based on whatever situation I wanna be me.
01:09:04 I don't think, I might not be just one me. I might be multiple mes and that defines me. I don't know.
01:09:11 The essence is my change of what we think as individuals, because again you can be different things.
01:09:19 You can be in different places. You can
01:09:21 Interviewer: But it's always one person or one me who chooses to go to different identities.
01:09:27 What do you mean, that your me also develops different personalities?
01:09:31 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes
01:09:32 Interviewer: It becomes two?
01:09:33 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH] Yeah, again we might get into the realm of almost multiple personalities
01:09:50 or something like that.
01:09:51 But there is might be a dominant personality of dominant individual that I think perhaps a way to look at it is we
01:10:03 might have a choice. Right now we don't have a choice, me is me, it's this one. Whether I like it or not this is.
01:10:09 Interviewer: But you make the choice.
01:10:10 Carolina Cruz-neira: This is the one.
01:10:11 Interviewer: You make the choice. You make the choice of making the choice for all the personalities.
01:10:24 But it's still you who makes the choice.
01:10:24 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah.
01:10:24 Interviewer: That's something which you could, like DNA or something.
01:10:24 Carolina Cruz-neira: I don't think DNA works in virtual reality [LAUGHS] so I don't think so.
01:10:28 I think it might be yes, maybe
01:10:30 Interviewer: There's nothing unique then?
01:10:30 Because if everybody thinks he was a all kinds of identities or personalities
01:10:34 and then people will become like each other.
01:10:37 And what's the difference between all these people with different identities and personalities,
01:10:41 there must be something you can do.
01:10:44 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah but I guess like I said [LAUGH] I think that there's probably gonna be that person,
01:10:55 that,individual that maybe is the, I don't know,
01:11:02 we end up having some supreme individual that is our main character that we decide.
01:11:09 This is the boss of all my individual's representations and this is the one that makes all the decisions. I don't know.
01:11:16 Like I said, to me, it's hard to envision that at this moment because there are again,
01:11:25 I feel I'm a little bit constrained on what I know I can do.
01:11:29 Interviewer: I would like to know
01:11:30 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
01:11:31 Interviewer: Which personality I can trust.
01:11:33 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, but again I go back to what we have today, with the situations with social media.
01:11:40 There are many, potentially many means out there because many of us maybe we have one social media persona,
01:11:49 but there are people that have multiple social media personas in there and.
01:11:54 And I might be talking to you on my social media persona when I'm some young teenager boy that goes surfing.
01:12:02 And you have no way to know you're talking with a 50-something year-old woman.
01:12:08 But behind all those personas I'm still me making that supreme me making the decision, okay, I have these multiple,
01:12:17 I don't know.
01:12:17 Interviewer: I would like to know what,
01:12:19 Carolina Cruz-neira: There are times I may be very philosophical, and I'm not philosophical. [LAUGH]
01:12:22 Interviewer: I'm not philosophical as well.
01:12:24 I'd like think about it because if I cannot trust one of my identities, I get lost. You-.
01:12:28 Carolina Cruz-neira: No.
01:12:28 Interviewer: Would know what I mean, right?
01:12:30 Carolina Cruz-neira: I know what you mean
01:12:45 but I think you can trust your identities because you are building those identities.
01:12:50 The problem is with the other people can trust your identities.
01:12:54 You are building those identities so I don't see any issues in you
01:12:58 or me trusting my identities because I'm defining those, I'm building those. I'm making those happening.
01:13:04 So I don't seem to have any issues. Again, I can be a lobster and I totally trust myself as a lobster.
01:13:11 Now, would you trust me as a lobster? That would be a big question.
01:13:18 So I think it's more, and again, going back to the simple situation with social media, it's the same thing.
01:13:25 Do you trust that person that you're meeting through social media?
01:13:29 You don't, cuz you really don't know who that person is.
01:13:33 You see what the postings are, what the blogs are, what the maybe fake pictures that person is putting in there.
01:13:40 Not that person is trusting himself or herself because they are building that.
01:13:45 The problem is not so much us, it's gonna be them, the others. And yes, there is again there is-
01:13:54 Interviewer: How do you know if another virtual reality isn't real?
01:13:58 Carolina Cruz-neira: We might reach a point where we don't.
01:14:03 And again science fiction has already discussed this heavily in a lot of different books where you get into these
01:14:10 alternate realities, these alternate universes.
01:14:13 And you get to a point that you don't know which one is the real one anymore, and which one is a dream
01:14:17 and which one is real. And potentially we can get into that direction again.
01:14:24 Not in the very short-term, but in a very long-term, potentially we can go that way. When we get there, I don't know.
01:14:32 We would probably, neither you or me will be alive by then. [LAUGH] At that time. But there is-
01:14:38 Interviewer: How to create your identity was useful?
01:14:40 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes, then maybe we can create some of us, some persona that stays,
01:14:45 even though we are physically no longer here. And again that's a possibility. That's a completely feasible-
01:14:50 Interviewer: What you're saying now? And this is the last question, because-
01:14:53 Carolina Cruz-neira: I'm saying are we going to be immortal in virtual reality? Maybe we are. I don't know.
01:14:59 Same as for robotics, people that are starting to develop robots that you can transfer your mind to the robot.
01:15:05 So, our physical body might be gone
01:15:08 but maybe many years from now we might continue living on through our robotic replica of ourselves. Who knows?
01:15:15 So, all these things are out there for our imaginations to really explode, I guess. [LAUGH]
01:15:25 Interviewer: It's up to your son.
01:15:27 Carolina Cruz-neira: I think that it's gonna be a lot more people out there than my son trying to be your.
01:15:34 [LAUGH] But again for us, for me it's just been fun.
01:15:38 It's been an amazing career, I guess, or life or way of living that I have.
01:15:48 And it was not chosen, some people choose their path. Mine was not chosen.
01:15:52 Mine was totally random, I came from here and I'm from there and I'm from there,
01:15:57 and I landed into this virtual reality thing without even knowing what I landed.
01:16:01 And I just enjoy it tremendously, but it was not a planned path.
01:16:08 Like I have some students that come with a very planned path to do this. It just happened, you know it's been fun.
01:16:17 And it's fun to be able to open the door.
01:16:21 Carolina Cruz-neira: And see what happens to the next generations that don't have those constraints,
01:16:29 or their imaginations really can fly free. And that is when real progress is gonna happen.
01:16:37 Right now, we're just starting. And we are, again, sometimes constrained from our own.
01:16:45 Our own knowledge today constrains sometimes how we can think.
01:16:50 And the new generations of that knowledge is a matter-of-fact. It's not a discovery anymore.
01:16:56 Then they can take it to the next level. Some of us we live from the previous generations, from us,
01:17:00 Interviewer: Clear, very clear.
01:17:02 Carolina Cruz-neira: Very practical.
01:17:04 Interviewer: [LAUGH] Yeah.
01:17:05 Carolina Cruz-neira: I'm very practical. I'm not, like I said, I don't philosophize very much [LAUGH]
01:17:10 Interviewer: Well, I like the way we philosophize about it very much, because,
01:17:13 Interviewer: A list of people who watch this program also think about what, does it mean in the future?
01:17:20 Or what could it mean?
01:17:22 Or what,
01:17:23 I think it's interesting to raise a lot of questions without answering them because we will know in the future.
01:17:30 Carolina Cruz-neira: But I think that fundamentally,
01:17:42 what makes virtual reality to me an exciting science is that there are no physical rules limiting what we can do.
01:17:51 Again, if we go back to the example of a biologist or something like that that is trying to find a cure for a disease,
01:17:57 his or her creativity Is bound by the laws of physics.
01:18:04 No matter how many ideas they can have, at the end of the day, it has to have some sort of molecular bonding, protein,
01:18:13 something, vitals whatever, DNA something. It has very clear rules of behavior.
01:18:21 The nice thing about virtual reality is we don't have that.
01:18:25 Like I said earlier, the limit is what we can imagine, what we can think. We have no physical constraints.
01:18:33 The physical world does not constrain what we can do in the virtual reality.
01:18:38 Interviewer: In what sense is what you do magic?
01:18:42 Carolina Cruz-neira: Is magic because again I am not bound by the laws of physics, so I-
01:18:50 Interviewer: Why is it magic? I don't understand.
01:18:51 Carolina Cruz-neira: Well, it's magic because here if I wanna walk on the ceiling I can't.
01:18:58 Because gravity's gonna make me fall.
01:19:01 In virtual reality, nothing prevents me from starting walking out the wall and walking up the ceiling.
01:19:06 Interviewer: So now, that is magic. But in the future, it's not magic anymore.
01:19:09 Carolina Cruz-neira: It might be a matter of fact.
01:19:13 It's magic because, for example I'm here with you right now, and in two seconds I can be in China.
01:19:20 Carolina Cruz-neira: That's poof, magic, like you would put-
01:19:26 Interviewer: Do [INAUDIBLE] understand that?
01:19:28 Carolina Cruz-neira: I don't know, you can ask my father about it?
01:19:31 [LAUGH] I think that they are starting more and more.
01:19:34 When I started doing this many, many years ago they were very worried
01:19:41 and skeptical that I was doing something that was worth anything.
01:19:44 Because of course when I started, it was the tinker, the really tinkering time.
01:19:49 So I was totally covered from head to toe in cables and hanging myself in a scaffolding
01:19:54 and a screwdrivers on my hands all the time,
01:19:57 so But I think over the years they've seen a lot of the experiences that we have built.
01:20:04 They've seen how the work that I do has been spread out in a lot of industry, in a lot of different parts of society.
01:20:15 And I think they to understand it better. Again, their perspective is always like, for them it's truly magic.
01:20:29 I have no idea how you do this honey, but it looks great. [LAUGH] So for them it's truly, truly magic.
01:20:37 For me, again, it's magic in the sense that you can just, in a split second be somewhere else.
01:20:45 And again, that somewhere else could be real, a reconstruction of a real place, or a complete imagination place.
01:20:54 And you can see sometimes again on the little ones, you can hear my son sometimes say, this is magic, I'm doing magic.
01:21:05 Because he does something and presses a button or shakes his hand or something, and something else happens.
01:21:11 That of course in real life is impossible to do. So it is magic, and it is magical because it just enchants people.
01:21:25 When you got to Disney World, it's just the magical place.
01:21:29 When people go to virtual reality, it's the same feeling is this enchantment like, this is very cool.
01:21:37 This is very nice. It's fun.
01:21:37 Interviewer: And suppose if we discontinue. Is it also possible that because now it's magic, but magic anymore.
01:21:37 Is it possible that we create our own virtual-
01:21:40 Interviewer: God?
01:21:41 Carolina Cruz-neira: [LAUGH]
01:21:42 Interviewer: Will there always be something in us humans if we want to create some kind of creature control.
01:21:48 Carolina Cruz-neira: Almighty being maybe, I'm not really religious, I don't know. But maybe.
01:22:22 I mean it's all what everybody individually can believe.
01:22:29 Like I say I don't believe that if I step on my virtual balcony, I'm going to fall down the cliff.
01:22:37 There are many people that come and they cannot take that step.
01:22:41 Interviewer: How far to the units together they create which nobody can see.
01:22:42 But it's there because we believe that it's there.
01:22:42 So it's all the virtual identities that also create something which they cannot see or touch what they believe in.
01:22:42 Carolina Cruz-neira: I don't know. I think that I'm a bit skeptical about that because it's still digital.
01:23:11 It's in the computer. [INAUDIBLE] I mean.
01:23:21 Interviewer: What will be different between us in digital?
01:23:21 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yeah, I think for something like that-
01:23:23 Carolina Cruz-neira: For something like that you're talking I think it might have to be.
01:23:29 If you look in the history, every time there's a new religion or a new god or something.
01:23:33 Something very drastic happening in human history that this new god appears.
01:23:38 So it might be a possibility if again some massive drastic who knows what happens in human history.
01:23:47 That the digital world supersedes the physical world in some manner.
01:23:52 And then at that point maybe there should be maybe so me new groups of people that start creating this.
01:24:01 Almighty being that is never seen or something.
01:24:04 But I think with the world as we know it today, I don't see that happening.
01:24:10 Unless again some major something happens to humanity. That they need to believe in something new.
01:24:18 You look at the history of religion, that's really what happens.
01:24:21 The new gods come out when something else happens and there is something else that people need to hold on to.
01:24:27 As we are right now, I don't think that will happen. I mean-
01:24:31 Interviewer: But you said something that, I remembered.
01:24:34 Because I was just wondering, our reality right now, who says that is not a digital reality as well?
01:24:42 Carolina Cruz-neira: Yes..
01:24:51 Interviewer: Some virtual [INAUDIBLE]
01:24:53 Carolina Cruz-neira: For all we know, we can be some computer that somebody else built.
01:24:57 That we are just enjoying a little bit of battery life. Yes, yes of course, of course.
01:25:05 And then we get into the argument, do you believe in a Christian God or do you believe in a Buddhist God?
01:25:11 Or are you completely an atheist and all those kinds of things. I think that's more individual beliefs.
01:25:23 My family is traditionally a Catholic family.
01:25:28 So we, I guess, believe that we are humans and the reality
01:25:34 and hopefully there will be some other reality on our next stage in life. [LAUGH]
01:25:41 Interviewer: Is virtual reality able to believe?
01:25:44 Carolina Cruz-neira: No, I don't have an answer for that. I have no idea.
01:25:50 I think that again, it's gonna be a very, very individualized mindset for that. Same as all the religions.
01:25:59 There are some traditions that are, to some people feel very crazy but that have a lot of followers.
01:26:06 And some other religions, we are more comfortable, and we are the followers of something.
01:26:11 I think that's just part of human life, part of humanity.
01:26:16 Some of us believe in things, and some of us don't believe in things.
01:26:20 I don't think we all collectively will believe just the one thing. Because that will never happen.
01:26:26 You'll never have the entire world believing the same thing all together.
01:26:31 So I think in virtual reality, it might develop some cults, sects, communities, parishes,
01:26:40 whatever it is you want to call it. Maybe, I can't say most have religions.
01:26:48 Sometimes you hear something on television, some preaching that happens.
01:26:54 And you're like, I wonder how these people actually follow this.
01:27:00 And then, sometimes you hear some others that go, this is really good..
01:27:04 But, maybe somebody else thinks, Carolina, you're crazy. How you can believe in that? I don't know [LAUGH]
01:27:08 Interviewer: We'll see. We'll wait for the future to happen.
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