THE H.I.T. LABORATORY
Seven years ago I wrote a column for the Vancouver Province about
Project Telepresence. This was the first indication of a totally new
concept that man had never contemplated outside the realm of science
fiction. To have a doctor on earth direct an android or robot in
space to operate on a human. The goal of Project Telepresence was to
complete such an operation.
Several decades before that I had an opportunity to "fly" the Moon
Lander at the Boeing plant in Seattle. This was the flight simulator
that provided the training for the astronauts who would eventually
land on the moon.
During those years young U.S. Air Force officer Thomas A. Furness
III, was travelling full time in similar fields -- at the WrightPatterson Air Force Research Base in Dayton, Ohio. Today Dr. Furness,
is Director of the new Human Interface Technology Laboratory at the
University of Washington in Seattle.
His work there is an extension of Telepresence and the "Smart
Cockpit" project he developed for the U.S.A.F.
Of all the opportunities available upon retirement from the U.S. Air
Force, two years ago, the most appealing came from the State of
Washington, with the offer to run the first State Resource Institute,
apparently in the world. The resources of not just the University of
Washington but apparently anything in the state are available to Dr.
Something is working here. Students from around the world, via both
mystic and electronic communications have heard about what is going
on and have been drawn here somehow, to learn, study and work in that
excavation which will, when eventually developed, be the exciting
world of Virtual Reality. A field where, at least at present almost
everything that happens is new. The effects of VR on many fields
will be tremendous. These students are virtually assured of success
by being in the right place at the right time. Something like
walking by the recently completed but empty Apple Computer plant in
Silicon Valley when they put up the first "Help Wanted" sign.
Dr. Furness sees what might be ... "Eventually a personal Virtual
Phone/TV for everyone. You would wear it constantly. You could
contact anyone, enter any promising world, sample any emotional,
visual or physical experience one might contemplate, alone or shared
with another anywhere on the planet it would be a constant,
challenging learning experience". I agree. It will eventually affect
the world to a greater extent than the automobile.
In VR people can share worlds and collect knowledge in unlimted and
never-ending form, quality and quantity. Anything ever created,
imagined or dreamed can be produced. History can be relived,
characters from the past resurrected and options for the future
created. It will be the ultimate classroom. Versions of heaven or
hell could be tested on command.
One of the staff I spoke to at the H.I.T. Lab was Natalie Stenger,
from France, who was working on creating emotion for a lab project
she is directing. Her creation shows a unique rose. When you enter
the rose's reality you become a rose with all the emotion that one
wishes to program into such a symbol. Have you ever experienced
entwining with a rose? Would you like to talk to a heart? Become an
angel? Most people are startled by the fact that everything and
anything may be possible.
Not that long ago it used to be sheer science fiction to think that
man might land on the moon. The jump into virtual reality will
startle man more than that physical "impossibility" of men on the
Dr. Furness is gathering a team to explore these new worlds of VR
that people will notice with excitement and awe very soon. During
the 1960s President John Kennedy asked America to put a man on the
moon. Soon a mere moon will fade into insignificance as whole new VR
galaxies open to us far beyond our current horizons.
Dr. Thomas A. Furness III, Director,
H.I.T. Laboratory, 2nd Fl, Fluke Hall,
University of Washington Technical Center,
FJ-15, Seattle, WA 98195.
Phone: 206/543-5075. Fax: 206/543-5380.
* * *
chapter index |
back to Main Chapter Listing
back to Home Page