That is for you to figure out!  You may have seen articles appearing everywhere these days on virtual reality (VR) technology and how it is poised to become the next great medium or platform.  Industry leaders are pouring billions into this field, including the 2014 purchase of Oculus by Facebook for $2 billion.  VR has been overhyped before, which led to an unfortunate implosion of interest in the 1990s.  The difference now is that the commodity components from the smartphone industry--computers, sensors, and displays--have surprisingly enabled low-cost, wide-field-of-view VR headsets to be mass produced.  The question remains:  What is this new medium or platform good for?  Smartphones were once designed to be telephones, but their success is based on almost everything but making phone calls.  Examples include maintaining social networks (Facebook) and arranging transportation (Uber).  VR is in the early stage that smart phones were in 15 years ago.  The current generation is targeted at video games, but the most transformative uses of VR are yet to be discovered.   While industry leaders use their experience and power to adapt their business models, we will also see numerous small teams trying completely new ideas from scratch.   This is where universities, startups, and artists can exert great influence over our future.  Furthermore, fundamental research issues that lie at the crossroads between perceptual psychology, human physiology, software systems, hardware, and optical science are cropping up everywhere.  This talk will touch upon lessons learned while a robotics researcher, an early employee at Oculus VR, and, most recently, while developing a new VR course and research program at UIUC.

Steven M. LaValle is Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1995. From 1995-1997 he was a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University. From 1997-2001 he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University. His research interests include robotics, virtual reality, sensing, planning algorithms, computational geometry, and control theory. He is mostly known for his introduction of the Rapidly exloring Random Tree (RRT) algorithm, which is widely used in robotics and other engineering fields. He was also an early founder and chief scientist of Oculus VR, acquired by Facebook in 2014, where he developed patented tracking technology for consumer virtual reality and led a team of perceptual psychologists to provide principled approaches to virtual reality system calibration, health and safety, and the design of comfortable user experiences. He also authored the books Planning Algorithms, Sensing and Filtering, and Virtual Reality.