mediately thrown into experimental
work. This made for a pretty intense
first year, but it was what I was look-
ing for in a lab. My advisor, Jeremy
Bailenson, has a reputation for being
very productive, which means his advi-
sees have a lot of opportunities to get
involved with interesting projects.
Before coming to Stanford my back-
ground was in anatomical models, fo-
cusing on creating digital models for
virtual reality. My M.S. from the Uni-
versity of Illinois at Chicago focused
on biomedical visualization, and I did
a lot of custom work with clinicians
after I graduated. I became interested
in how custom models like these could
be used therapeutically, for exam-
ple, showing patients suffering from
chronic pain a virtual representation
of their own face being painlessly
touched. I became fascinated with
the idea that changing how a person
is represented in media could change
their life in the real world. This idea
led me to pursue my Ph.D. at VHIL.
My main research interest is using
virtual reality therapeutically for pain
patients, by changing how their bodies
appear to them when they view them-
selves in a virtual reality. However, I am
broadly interested in how people inter-
pret the physical world based on cues
they receive through media, whether it
is a super-immersive virtual environ-
ment or a brief text-based interaction.
It’s important to understand both the
good and bad effects of these powerful
In my career, I hope to help alleviate
some of the suffering caused by chron-
ic health conditions by using the abili-
ties of virtual environments to change
people’s perceptions. I look forward to
working with my colleagues at VHIL to
use media to improve human life.
Andrea Stevenson Won is a Ph. D. student at the Virtual
Human Interaction Lab in the Communication Department
at Stanford University.
It’s hard to ignore the proliferation of head-mounted displays lately.
Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens, and Oculus Rift are all well-known
products that have entered, or are poised, to enter the market. This
isn’t the first time we’ve seen a frenzy of interest in augmented and
virtual reality (VR) though. By the early 1990s, VR was already a hot
topic in mainstream media and a handful of early consumer products
enjoyed limited success.
VR games had already reached arcades by the early ‘90s, and in
1995, Forte Technologies released one of the earliest VR devices for
the home PC. Due to its relatively competitive price point, and modest
hardware requirements, the VFX- 1 was one of the more successful
offers on the market. Sporting the “cyberpuck” controller with built-in motion sensor, the VFX- 1 could be used to play numerous games.
Nevertheless, the VFX- 1 suffered from technical shortcomings and a
generally poor user experience that fated it to limited adoption.
In 2012, Oculus VR launched a wildly successful Kickstarter
campaign to help fund further development of its product, the Rift,
quickly surpassing its funding goal. Developer Kit 1 began shipping
in early 2013, the much improved Developer Kit 2 was released in
2014, and the consumer version is set to be released in 2016. With
a wider field-of-view, better resolution, better tracking, and overall
improved technology, the Rift promises to be a much more immersive
experience than any VR hardware that has come before.
Despite the shortcomings of products in the past, this time really
does feel different. Perhaps we will all finally get to experience
movies, games, and other digital media in the new and immersive
ways that we’ve been promised for so many years.
Forte-VFX- 1 Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2
Release 1995 2014
Price $995 $350
FOV (horizontal) 33. 5° 100°
Resolution (per eye) 263x230 960x1080
Weight (pounds) 2. 5 1
1920xRGBx1080 is the panel
resolution for Sony’s Project Morpheus