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Cutting-edge virtual reality technology in development in Playa Vista

November 1, 2010 |  1:35 pm

Computer-simulated battlefields, three-dimensional video teleconferencing and sprawling virtual worlds are just a few of the tools being developed at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

The cutting-edge research institute, known as ICT, recently opened a facility in Playa Vista where it develops virtual environments used to train U.S. military personnel.

A story in today's Times features the institute, whose work is used by the military for purposes including training fighters to combat insurgents and calming nerves of weary soldiers. ICT’s wide-ranging technologies are now found on 65 military sites across the country.

As the Pentagon has stepped up spending on training military personnel through simulations, ICT’s funding has increased from $5 million in 1999 to about $30 million this year.

Take a look at the photo gallery, which includes pictures of ICT's live 3-D video teleconferencing tool, dubbed "headspin.”

The technology is similar to Skype, but users appear as a hologram, capable of looking around and making eye contact with whomever they need to address. Through the use of two spinning curved brushed-aluminum panels, images are much like R2-D2’s hologram projector in the "Star Wars" films.

In a training tool dubbed Stretching Space, users wear head-mounted displays that makes them feel as if they are walking through an expansive labyrinth of rooms and buildings that covers 3,000 square feet. In reality, users are walking in circles around a space that is just 300 square feet.

Randall W. Hill Jr., executive director of ICT, said the institute outgrew its old facility, which was in Marina del Rey.

"The move is a mark of a new era for us," Hill said.

-- W.J. Hennigan

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