Most of us look back at our childhood and remember something that our parents made us do. For some it was piano lessons, for others it was playing a sport. Not Chris Cullen, for her it was something that would significantly impact her career - coding! Her father was one of the first in her neighborhood to have an Apple computer and he felt it was important that his kids learn how to code.
Chris wanted to get away from coding when she went off to college and she focused her energy on Art History. However, she did weave some engineering and programming classes into her curriculum at Oregon State University. After graduating with her degree in Art History, Chris found herself accepting a job at the engineering laboratory in the scientific visualization and supercomputing lab at the INL. The combination of Chris’s programming and art background is what landed her the position. They wanted her to make their visualizations look more aesthetic to general public. Chris thoroughly enjoyed her role and was able to do some major cutting edge stuff. She had her hands in the early VR space! (We’ll be doing another full blog post on that soon.) We asked her what she was working with during that time and here are a few highlights:
- World Tool Kit (WTK) was the virtual world software
- Virtual World Authoring Environment (VWAE)
- Advanced Visual Systems (AVS) was the visualization software
- Aurora/Postgres/FullSail– Relational Databases
- VIRTUS - CAD system
- VREAM - object oriented modeling and rendering
- CrystalEyes stereo glasses
- XMosaic (for web interaction-precursor to Netscape)
Life brought her to Boise after five years with the INL. She has remained a techie, first at HP and now at Blue Cross of Idaho as the Manager of eBusiness - CRM Technology. Visualization has always been important to her and she has pushed the envelope as much as possible in her roles. In her current capacity she looks forward to spending time exploring the use of VR in CRM, payer and healthcare innovation. Chris received her Masters in Science - Management Information Systems at BSU and this connection is how she found the IVRC. After speaking with Dr. Ellertson he suggested she connect with us. (Dr. Ellertson runs the Gaming, Interactive Media and Mobile Technology program also known as GIMM at BSU.) When you speak with Chris her passion for VR/AR technology is easily identifiable and contagious. Here’s a little more insight into our conversation with her:
Q: Talk to us a little bit about what you are seeing in the VR/AR space.
Chris: What has been interesting to me is what has happened in the last few years in the mobile space and the platforms that are being put together. Companies are competing to get the new technologies out the fastest (i.e. applied artificial intelligence, advanced machine learning, intelligent things and augmented reality). Gaming has taken the lead on some of this, and Hollywood has adopted the technology where we’ve long seen the advancement in graphics in this space. However, there could be more beneficial uses of this technology, including healthcare. But, there are still a lot of challenges that face the technology. Lastly, it was amazing to see the processing power of computers improve over time making rendering and data processing exponentially faster.
Q: What challenges do you see in this space?
Chris: I think there’s still some similar to those we faced 20 years ago. How do you make it viable, pragmatic and applicable? It still seems like we need to see more REAL applications which will help people better understand how the technology can be applied across industries.
Q: Where do you hope the industry will be in 10 years?
Chris: I hope we’ve got some exciting breakthroughs where it enriches society. Gaming will definitely continue to grow, but I hope we see more use in education, agriculture and healthcare. Also, it is exciting to see what social interactions will be like with each other in VR.
We’re very excited to have Chris on board with the IVRC as a Founding Member! If you’d like to connect with her, she can be reached via LinkedIn.