Logo: University of Southern California

In a Great New Building, the Institute for Creative Technologies Celebrates Ten Great Years

ICT, the research home of many high-profile Viterbi faculty members opened its new home in Playa Vista at a ceremony following day-long demos of its work

November 01, 2010 —

On Thursday October 28, USC President C.L. Max Nikias, the USC marching band and special guests from the military, state, city and entertainment industry joined ICT Executive Director Randall W. Hill Jr. in a ribbon cutting ceremony at ICT’s new Playa Vista campus.

The event was the culmination of a day-long showcase of the institute’s new LEED-certified building and the latest immersive technologies being developed there, which have an impact on military training, mental health treatment and movie special effects.

“In many ways, ICT represents USC at its very best,” Nikias said. “As a university, we truly

(left to right) Col. John Langhauser, commander of the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Technology Center, John Miller, director of the U.S. Army Research Lab, ICT’s Randall W. Hill, Jr., USC President C.L. Max Nikias, Bill Allen, president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, Scott Seigler, entertainment industry executive and CEO of MediaSeigler, and Karen Kukerin, deputy director and community liaison in the Governor’s Los Angeles office. (Photo: Steve Cohn)
shine in the area of applied research. We focus on solving societal problems. We concentrate on improving people’s lives.”

Kukerin delivered remarks on behalf of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“ICT is a shining example of why California is a world leader in technology, research and innovation,” she said. “The amazing work all of you do today defines the advances that society will make tomorrow.”

Hill called the celebration “the beginning of the next exciting phase of what was begun in 1999.” He read from the original U.S. Army contract that established ICT as a university affiliated research center at USC:

“ICT will be a joint effort of the Army, the entertainment industry and academe - an innovative team to advance dazzling new media and ultimately benefit training and education for everyone in America.”

The institute’s technology prototypes can be found on close to 70 military installations and have benefited more than 50,000 troops. Advances in virtual human technologies have led to interactive characters who teach negotiation skills to soldiers, train clinicians in how to interview patients and answer students’ questions about science and technology. The institute’s work with the entertainment industry has led to the development of visual effects techniques so significant that they are used in major motion pictures and were recognized with an Academy Award this year.

The move to the new building in Playa Vista was prompted by the institute’s growth from just a handful of researchers a decade ago to a current staff of close to 200, including 13 faculty members from the USC Department of Computer Science and the USC School for Cinematic Arts, among others.

The new facility features a large theater, which Hill plans to use for ongoing speakers’ series and conferences. These began with a symposium earlier in the day featuring Microsoft scientist Eric Horvitz and computing pioneer Fred Brooks.

The institute’s facility sits on the grounds that once served as the headquarters for Howard Hughes’ aircraft company.

“A culture of imagination, a contribution to science and a commitment to service are all part of the Hughes legacy,” Hill said. “We are thrilled to be here and to continue these traditions.”

More information and views of the new facility, and complete overview of the events are at the ICT grand opening website

The day-long celebration also included a speaker symposium and technology demonstrations, including:

  • Gunslinger - The Western goes to the future in this engaging, mixed-reality, story-driven experience where a single participant can play the hero in a wild west setting by interacting with multiple virtual characters.
  • Live 3D Video Teleconferencing - Finally, you can attend a remote meeting like a 3-D “hologram” from Star Wars, able to look around and make eye contact with whomever you need to address.
  • Virtual Iraq - An immersive virtual environment for use by trained therapists to help treat combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Digital Actors - Academy Award-winning facial scanning technology used in Avatar, Spider-Man 2, Benjamin Button and more that transforms a real person into a convincing digital double.
  • IED Attack - First-person multi-player game allow players to take part in a simulated Improvised Explosive Device attack.
  • Digital Docents - Meet Ada and Grace, two bright and bubbly educators who arrived at the Museum of Science, Boston in 2009. They can answering visitor questions, suggesting exhibits and explain the technology that makes them work.
  • Stretching Space - Expand a virtual world with redirected walking utilizing a head-mounted display that allows you to cover vast virtual territory with just a few steps.
  • Virtual Patients - Experience an avatar-based simulation program designed to replicate the experiences of patients exposed to combat stress and to help prepare clinicians to interact with real clients.

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