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Hummel/Gray Travel Fund Opens Up New Perspectives on Virtual Reality Technology for Caltech Student

This past year, thanks to the Patrick Hummel & Harry Gray Travel Fund, I had the opportunity to attend the European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP) in Nijmegan, Netherlands. This event is one of the oldest and largest conferences for visual perception — perhaps even psychophysics — bringing together vision researchers from across Europe.


Events at ECVP spanned contemporary topics such as applications of Virtual Reality (VR), machine learning, and computational modeling, as well as classical topics such as social perception, memory, and attention. I particularly enjoyed attending events pertaining to VR and talking to researchers pursuing research along similar lines. This summer, I pursued a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) in the Shimojo Lab, and amongst other questions, explored the possibility of expanding visual consciousness using a VR environment.


At ECVP, I particularly enjoyed a symposium that focused on the differences between VR and the real world, and whether, and in which context, deductions are transferable between the two environments. One research group even presented their prototype for the “perfect” head-mounted display system that best emulates “real” vision.


Additionally, at the demo night, I was able to experience various technologies integrating VR components, such as Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) - tech. For example, I was able to experience a VR simulation by a research group at Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, aiming to emulate visual perception in low-vision patients using intervascular implants. Another setup manipulated one’s sense of self-location and consequently studies fear perception.


This fall, I am continuing to work along similar lines as my SURF and am using VR systems to study visual consciousness and ways to manipulate them. It was exciting to see the breadth of research possible using VR technologies. I had informative conversations with these researchers about the development and deployment of such experiments, further research questions that can be pursued, and the state of the art.




ECVP is the first conference I’ve ever attended. I had the opportunity to learn more about fields I’m working on or am interested in working in, about fields I’m not particularly familiar with, and connect with researchers in those fields. I had an extremely positive experience and am incredibly grateful for the generous support I received from the Hummel and Gray families.

 

The Patrick Hummel and Harry Gray Award - established with gifts from Carla and Paul Hummel, Patrick Hummel, and Shirley and Harry Gray, Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and Beckman Institute Founding Director - supports undergraduate travel that promotes professional and leadership development and broadens students' perspectives as responsible citizens of the world.

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