Body Computing Conference 2020

Next Steps Forward With Chris Meek Featuring Dr. Skip Rizzo and Chris Merkle

Host Chris Meek speaks with Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director of medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, about Bravemind, the virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy program Rizzo created to successfully treat post-traumatic stress (PTS) in veterans.

Listen to full podcast here.

The Army’s Next Robot Will Know When You’re Talking Trash to It – And Know When to Talk Back

The Army is developing a system to allow autonomous ground robots to communicate with soldiers through natural conversations — and, in time, learn to respond to soldier instructions no matter how informal or potentially crass they may be.

Researchers from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, working in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, have developed a new capability that allows conversational dialogue between soldiers and autonomous systems.

The capability, known as the Joint Understanding and Dialogue Interface (JUDI), is elegant in its simplicity: the system processes spoken language instructions from soldiers, derives the core intent, and carries out a set of functions, according to Dr. Matthew Marge, a computer scientist at ARL.

Continue reading in Task & Purpose.  

U.S. Army Research Enables Conversational AI Between Soldiers, Robot

Dialogue is one of the most basic ways humans use language, and is a desirable capability for autonomous systems. Army researchers developed a novel dialogue capability to transform Soldier-robot interaction and perform joint tasks at operational speeds.

The fluid communication achieved by dialogue will reduce training overhead in controlling autonomous systems and improve Soldier-agent teaming.

Researchers from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, developed the Joint Understanding and Dialogue Interface, or JUDI, capability, which enables bi-directional conversational interactions between Soldiers and autonomous systems.

The Institute for Creative Technologies, or ICT, is a Department of Defense-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center, or UARC, working in collaboration with DOD services and organizations. UARCs are aligned with prestigious institutions conducting research at the forefront of science and innovation. ICT brings film and game industry artists together with computer and social scientists to study and develop immersive media for military training, health therapies, education and more.

This effort supports the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Army Modernization Priority and the Army Priority Research Area for Autonomy through reduction of Soldier burden when teaming with autonomous systems and by allowing verbal command and control of systems.

“Dialogue will be a critical capability for autonomous systems operating across multiple echelons of Multi-Domain Operations so that Soldiers across land, air, sea and information spaces can maintain situational awareness on the battlefield,” said Dr. Matthew Marge, a research scientist at the laboratory. “This technology enables a Soldier to interact with autonomous systems through bidirectional speech and dialogue in tactical operations where verbal task instructions can be used for command and control of a mobile robot. In turn, the technology gives the robot the ability to ask for clarification or provide status updates as tasks are completed. Instead of relying on pre-specified, and possibly outdated, information about a mission, dialogue enables these systems to supplement their understanding of the world by conversing with human teammates.”

In this innovative approach, he said, dialogue processing is based on a statistical classification method that interprets a Soldier’s intent from their spoken language. The classifier was trained on a small dataset of human-robot dialogue where human experimenters stood in for the robot’s autonomy during initial phases of the research.

The software developed as part of the collaboration with USC ICT leverages technologies developed in the institute’s Virtual Human Toolkit.

“JUDI’s ability to leverage natural language will reduce the learning curve for Soldiers who will need to control or team with robots, some of which may contribute different capabilities to a mission, like scouting or delivery of supplies,” Marge said.

The goal, he said, is to shift the paradigm of Soldier-robot interaction from today’s heads-down, hands-full joystick operation of robots to a heads-up, hands-free mode of interaction where a Soldier can team with one or more robots while maintaining situational awareness of their surroundings.

According to the researchers, JUDI is distinct from current similar research conducted in the commercial realm.

“Commercial industry has largely focused on intelligent personal assistants like Siri and Alexa – systems that can retrieve factual knowledge and perform specialized tasks like setting reminders, but do not reason over the immediate physical surroundings,” Marge said. “These systems also rely on cloud connectivity and large, labeled datasets to learn how to perform tasks.”

In contrast, Marge said, JUDI is designed for tasks that require reasoning in the physical world, where data is sparse because it requires previous human-robot interaction and there is little to no reliable cloud-connectivity. Current intelligent personal assistants may rely on thousands of training examples, while JUDI can be tailored to a task with only hundreds, an order of magnitude smaller.

Moreover, he said, JUDI is a dialogue system adapted to autonomous systems like robots, allowing it to access multiple sources of context, like Soldier speech and the robot’s perception system, to help in collaborative decision-making.

This research represents a synergy of approaches created by ARL researchers from both the lab’s Maryland locations and ARL West in Playa Vista, California, who are part the lab’s Human Autonomy Teaming, or HAT, and Artificial Intelligence for Maneuver and Mobility, or AIMM, Essential Research Program, and experts in dialogue from USC ICT. The group’s speech recognizer also leveraged a speech model developed as part of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity’s Babel program, designed for reverberant and noisy acoustic environments.

JUDI will be integrated into the CCDC ARL Autonomy Stack, a suite of software algorithms, libraries and software components that perform specific functions that are required by intelligent systems such as navigation, planning, perception, control and reasoning, which was developed under the decade-long Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.

Successful innovations in the stack are also rolled into the CCDC Ground Vehicle System Center’s Robotics Technology Kernel.

“Once ARL develops a new capability that is built into the autonomy software stack, it is spiraled into GVSC’s Robotics Technology Kernel where it goes through extensive testing and hardening and is used in programs such as the Combat Vehicle Robotics, or CoVeR, program,” said Dr. John Fossaceca, AIMM ERP program manager. “Ultimately, this will end up as Army owned intellectual property that will be shared with industry partners as a common architecture to ensure that Next Generation Combat Vehicles are based on best of breed technologies with modular interfaces.”

Moving forward, the researchers will evaluate the robustness of JUDI with physical mobile robot platforms at an upcoming AIMM ERP-wide field test currently planned for September.

“Our ultimate goal is to enable Soldiers to more easily team with autonomous systems so they can more effectively and safely complete missions, especially in scenarios like reconnaissance and search-and-rescue,” Marge said. “It will be extremely gratifying to know that Soldiers can have more accessible interfaces to autonomous systems that can scale and easily adapt to mission contexts.”


VR Tools Becoming More Common in Real-World Practice

At the 2020 virtual Psych Congress Elevate conference, Dr. Skip Rizzo, director of the medical virtual reality lab at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles, used an example of a VR simulation that helps people with a fear of flying. “In this case, these environments are deliverables using low-cost VR headsets that don’t even require a computer. All the processing is done on a headset that’s about $400,” he said. 

“The accessibility of this technology has dramatically changed in the last couple of years,” Dr. Rizzo explained. “You can pull a VR headset out of your desk drawer and hand it to a client, rather than having to use an exotic computer, and be able to deliver this type of treatment more effectively.”

Continue reading in Psychiatry & Behavioral Learning Network.

Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo on Virtual Reality

Albert “Skip” Rizzo, PhD, describes virtual reality in this clip from his “Virtual Reality: The New Frontier in Mental Health” session, which will be presented at the 2020 Psych Congress Elevate conference, July 25-27, 2020.

VIRTUAL – HCI International 2020

VIRTUAL – 11th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2020)

To Mitigate and Track Covid-19, Entrepreneurs Push to Develop Tools

The Wall Street Journal speaks with industry experts about specific tools in the developmental stage to help fight Covid-19. In this article, reporter David Ewalt discusses the concept of a virtual reality game to help aid children in dealing with the pandemic with ICT’s Skip Rizzo.

Read the article here.


Download a PDF overview.

Rapid Integration & Development Environment



RIDE combines features inherent to commercial game engines with many of the immersive technologies developed throughout the ICT research portfolio. ICT, in direct support of Department of Defense-funded research (DoD), has created this state-of-the-art, modern simulation research and development framework that has proved invaluable in advancing the research of ICT, collaborators, and stakeholders across multiple lines of effort.

RIDE combines and integrates – into a single simulation framework – the following unique capabilities created through ICT research and development: One World Terrain (OWT) data and tools; generative programming; networking; machine learning (ML) tools; speech recognition; natural language processing; character AI behaviors; and scenario event development.

RIDE is integrated with commercial game engines allowing the re-use of visual art, 3D models, and other simulation technologies in the common platform thereby reducing the efforts required to create divergent simulation prototypes. Future ICT work will focus on advancing novel AI and ML approaches; adding narrative summarization to support after-action reviews; supporting research with mixed reality technologies, and expanding the implementation of RIDE across multiple commercial game engines.

ICT has been successful in making RIDE available to DoD organizations interested in using and sponsoring capabilities to support research and development objectives. ICT is working to create a DoD “RIDE Community of Users” in order to expand the awareness of RIDE, encourage its widespread use across the DoD simulation community, and leverage the expertise of DoD researchers and developers to diversify future RIDE capabilities. Sponsored research and development models for RIDE can also be made available to broaden and accelerate advanced simulation prototypes.

View an introductory video to RIDE here.

Army Looks to Better Attract Gaming Industry for Training Simulations

The Army’s STE information system, which is currently in development, will serve similar to an operating system on a smartphone.

When the iPhone was first released, it only had a handful of standard applications developed by Apple. The company then created its App Store, which now has over 2 million apps available to download on iPhones.

The STE information system will have three baseline apps: training simulation software that will drive simulations; training management tools to plan, execute and assess training; and One World Terrain that will be 3-D and readily accessible either on hand or pulled from a commercial asset into simulators in less than 72 hours.

Continue reading, via U.S. Army.

Suicide Crisis – PTSD, Suicide and Bravemind

The Bravemind application has been implemented at Ozark Center, part of an initiative with the Veteran Integration Program in Missouri.

Watch the full segment, via KSN Local News.

AI Therapists Promise to Help You Cope with Coronavirus Isolation

Gale Lucas and her research are featured in this piece from OneZero about human-computer interaction in the time of COVID-19.

Read the full article here.

Do Humans Dream of Androids Dreaming?

ICT’s Jonathan Gratch provides insight on emotionally sophisticated personal assistants for USC Dornsife News.

Read the full article here.

Will COVID-19 Pave the Way for Home-Based Precision Medicine?

COVID-19 could fundamentally alter the way we deliver healthcare, abandoning the outdated 20th century brick and mortar fee-for-service model in favor of digital medicine. At-home diagnostics may be the leading edge of this seismic shift and the pandemic could accelerate the product innovations that allow for home-based medical screening.

“That’s the silver lining to this devastation,” says Dr. Leslie Saxon, executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing at the Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. As an interventional cardiologist, Saxon has spent her career devising and refining the implantable and wearable wireless devices that are used to treat and diagnose heart conditions and prevent sudden death. “This will open up innovation—research has been stymied by a lack of imagination and marriage to an antiquated model,” she adds. “There are already signs this is happening—relaxing state laws about licensure, allowing physicians to deliver health care in non-traditional ways. That’s a real sea change and will completely democratize medical information and diagnostic testing.”

Continue reading in leapsmag.

Marine Training May Take More Mental Than Physical Stamina

Continued coverage of recent CBC research, via PsychCentral.

How the U.S. Marine Corps Remains the ‘Best of the Best’

The Marine Corps has a desire to maximize the number of Marines who pass selection, without compromising their fitness standards or making the course any easier. If they could predict who would be likely to fail or pass before Recon selection, training would be more efficient. One researcher decided to try and answer the question, what separates those who pass from those who fail?

Continue reading about recent research from the Center for Body Computing, via Yahoo! News.

Gale Lucas

Mona Sobhani

Sharon Mozgai

Leslie Saxon

The Rise of Biometrics in Sports

“We’re not just trying to preserve an individual in the short term. We want methods that will preserve that individual into their postelite athlete life. One has to think about what is going to ultimately affect the health of that individual—including their nutritional, emotional, and cognitive needs—over the long term,” Leslie Saxon for IEEE Pulse.

Continue reading the full article here.

Jessica Brillhart

Kyle McCullough

David Traum

Psychological Factors Matter More than Physical Performance for Marine Training

Additional coverage of CBC’s recent published research, via News Medical Life Sciences.


Download a PDF overview.


The hardware components of INVRSE includes a simple INVRSE lens assembly that slides onto the top portion of your tablet or over your phone screen. This enables you to experience content in virtual or augmented reality while experiencing traditional media formats like text, photos, or video. What results is a cutting-edge content ecosystem that is accessible, scalable, and cost effective. The goal of INVRSE is to leverage all the great things that immersive media can do while eliminating the logistical limitations and user hurdles that come with it.

A LOW-COST SOLUTION ​Immersive hardware for technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality tend to be expensive to purchase and costly to maintain. The costs of creating INVRSE devices are nominal and the hardware can be easily reproduced on any 3D printer.

EASY TO USE ​INVRSE is straightforward, allowing anyone – regardless of technical ability, familiarity, or skillset – to be able to experience immersive media. If you know how to use a tablet, then you know how to use INVRSE.

ALL TYPES OF MEDIA IN ONE PLACE ​INVRSE offers a hybrid and holistic media ecosystem, combining traditional formats like text, photos and videos with emerging mediums like VR and AR. INVRSE allows users to intuitively and casually jump in and out of various formats without having to switch apps, platforms, or devices.

CLOUD-BASED & NETWORK READY ​Content for INVRSE runs on widely used mobile-based technology and hardware. Media can be streamed from either a WiFi or a cellular network, or it can be pulled down locally to devices from the cloud to be accessed in areas of limited to no connectivity. INVRSE also has the capacity to go from being a one-on-one experience to a fully social one. Creators can network devices together and designate a leader to guide a team of users through an immersive experience. This is particularly impactful in the sectors which have training and education at their cores.

EMPOWERS THOSE WHO NEED IT WHEN THEY NEED IT MOST Whether you’re a teacher creating a remote lesson for her Chemistry class, a platoon commander defining a tactical scenario while on the frontlines, or a news publisher who wants to leverage all forms of media to tell a cohesive story – INVRSE will empower anyone/everyone to be able to create engaging content for the platform. The future capabilities of an INVRSE solution will include an easy-to-use content creator tool complete with templates and guidelines to help add, edit, and share. INVRSE source-code and schematics are open source, empowering users to craft and mod their very own viewers to fit their various needs.

For more information, please contact David Nelson, senior producer, MXR Lab at:

Healing the Invisible Wounds of War with Virtual Reality

Since 9/11, nearly three million service members have deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan—about half of them more than once.

Now, an innovative, evidence-based approach to treating PTSD is reaching more veterans than ever before. Called “virtual reality exposure therapy,” it heals by transporting the veteran back to the traumatic war event, into a computer-generated, parallel universe created in a Southern California lab.

Continue reading and listen to the full podcast, via Veterans in America, a special limited-series podcast from RAND.

Marine Training May Take More Mental Than Physical Grit

Keck Medicine of USC study identifies psychological measures that may predict who is more likely to complete – or quit – a demanding marine training course

LOS ANGELES, June 25, 2020 — The United States military has a constant need for service members who can serve in elite and specialized military units, such as the Marine Corps. However, because the training courses for these forces is so rigorous, the dropout rate is high.

To help determine predictors of success or failure in elite military training, Leslie Saxon, MD, executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing, and fellow Center for Body Computing researchers monitored the physical and psychological activity of three consecutive classes of Marines and sailors enrolled in a 25-day specialized training course.

The results were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth.

A total of 121 trainees participated. Only slightly more than half (64) successfully completed the course.

Researchers found there was no correlation between finishing and performance on physical training standards, such as hikes or aquatic training. Physical markers such as heart rate or sleep status also did not play a role.

Rather, the biggest determinant was mental. Trainees who identified themselves as extroverted and having a positive affect – the ability to cultivate a joyful, confident attitude – were most likely to complete the course.

“These findings are novel because they identify traits not typically associated with military performance, showing that psychological factors mattered more than physical performance outcomes,” says Saxon, who is also a cardiologist with Keck Medicine of USC and a professor of medicine (clinical scholar) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC

Researchers were also able to pinpoint psychological stressors that triggered dropping out of the course. Trainees typically quit before a stressful aquatic training exercise or after reporting an increase in emotional or physical pain and a decrease in confidence. This led researchers to be able to predict who would drop out of the course one to two days in advance. 

While Saxon has been studying human performance in elite athletes for 15 years, this was her first study involving the military. She partnered with the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, which has established military research programs, to run the study with a training company in Camp Pendleton, Calif. that trains Marines in amphibious reconnaissance. Typically, only around half of the participants finish the training.

The study authors collected baseline personality assessments of the trainees before the recruits began the course, assessing personality type, emotional processing, outlook on life and mindfulness. Researchers next provided subjects with an iPhone and Apple Watch, and a specially designed mobile application to collect continuous daily measures of trainees’ mental status, physical pain, heart rate, activity, sleep, hydration and nutrition during training.

The mobile application also prompted trainees to answer daily surveys on emotional and physical pain, well-being and confidence in course completion and instructor support.

“This study, the first to collect continuous data from individuals throughout a training, suggests that there may be interventions the military can take to reduce the number of dropouts,” says Saxon. “This data could be helpful in designing future training courses for Marines and other military units to increase the number of elite service members, as well as provide insights on how to help athletes and other high performers handle challenges.” 

Saxon is already testing whether or not various psychological interventions or coaching might encourage more trainees to stay the course.

Other USC Center for Body Computing study authors include Rebecca Ebert, BS, senior research coordinator, and Mona Sobhani, PhD, director of research and operations. Researchers from the USC Marshall School of Business and the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering also contributed to the study.

# # #

OVR Technology Delivers First-Of-Its-Kind Scent Experience Virtual Reality Experiences with Scents

Anyone can benefit from the immersive experiences of OVR Technology’s scent platform. However, it’s most advantageous to organizations looking for measurable VR outcomes. Take Bravemind for example. Skip Rizzo of the University of Southern California developed the treatment program for veterans with PTSD. He, too, harnesses the power of virtual reality and olfaction.

Continue reading in AR Post.

CANCELED – Amazon re:MARS 2020

OVR Technology Delivers First-Of-Its-Kind Scent Experience for VR

Skip Rizzo, Director for ICT’s Medical VR group, will use OVR Technology’s platform in the next iteration of Bravemind. Such therapies are crucial, as 20 percent of military veterans suffer from PTSD and 21 veterans die by suicide daily in the United States.

Continue reading in Gear VR Powered.

Body Computing

The Center for Body Computing (CBC) is a digital health research and innovation center focused on digital technology-driven health and human performance solutions for a modern age.  Our core expertise is in the use of biometric sensors within devices that are held in the hand, worn on the skin or implanted in the body, to optimize health conditions. The CBC has created a model for the future of health, performance, and chronic disease management that is not confined to a point visit between a subject and health provider.

We use clinical research to test, validate and develop technology to make healthcare more accessible and affordable to a broader population. The results are personalized and continuous health models, reimagined training techniques through evidence-based application of biometric data, and improved health information safety and efficacy. We also have active engagement with experts, programs, and policies that assure current and best-in-breed cybersecurity, data privacy, and ethics practices.

Work with us to see how together we can accelerate our mission to use technology to make healthcare more personal, affordable, and accessible for all.

Tracking Michigan Protesters Raises Privacy, COVID-19 Spread Questions

Collecting phone data for use in public health studies or operations has become a hot issue because of the coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. Mona Sobhani, director of research and operations at the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing. Regular citizens might not realize it, but apps commonly collect location information and barter the data to companies interested in targeted marketing, she said. 

Continue reading in The Detroit News.

What It Takes to Become One of Marine Corps’ Elite

Leslie Saxon, Executive Director of the Center for Body Computing conducted a study to determine why so many Marine candidates were dropping out. Her study “sought to continuously quantify the mental and physical status of trainees of an elite United States military unit [Recon Marines] to identify novel predictors of success or failure in successive training classes performed on land and in water.” The results of the study are fascinating.

Continue reading in The National Interest.

Can Virtual Reality Help Sports Fans Experience Game Day In A Post COVID-19 World?

ICT’s MxR Lab Director Jessica Brillhart talks with CBS News about the use of VR during and after a global pandemic.

Read the full story here.

How to Motivate Workers Who Are Managed By an Algorithm?

USC researchers investigate crowdwork — assigning mundane tasks via a website — and determine how to help these workers feel invested in their duties.

By Sara Preto

Many businesses turned to remote workers to continue their operations after states issued stay-at-home orders to reduce COVID-19 infections. It’s a trend that is likely to continue long after the coronavirus is controlled.

To help companies ease the transition online, USC researchers studied the challenges to increasing the use of crowdwork — a manifestation of the gig economy in which companies offer ad-hoc, mundane tasks to prospects via a website. The move minimizes disruptions that organizations would experience as a result of COVID-19 or other crises.

The study, conducted in September through a collection of task responses via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform, shows that workers will need more autonomy over tasks and a clearer sense of purpose to perform often mundane work at a high level — advantages that AI assistance offers

“Crowdwork functions similarly to Uber, but it is used to perform online tasks like clean data, train artificial intelligence and moderate content,” said Gale Lucas, research assistant professor at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

“As unemployment rates continue to skyrocket, it will likely become even more popular in serving as a stopgap during the current shutdown and as the economy changes due to COVID-19. We need to improve crowdwork and make it more efficient, which could involve new types of supervision assistance using AI.”

The findings were presented May 11 via the International Conference On Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems in New Zealand. A video presentation is be publicly available.

Algorithmic management contributes to crowdwork

With the continuous development of AI technologies, employees and gig workers increasingly encounter software algorithms that assist in assigning their work. Many tasks performed by managers — such as hiring, evaluations and setting compensation — will increasingly use AI as a tool to help perform these functions.

These newly automated supervisory duties — called algorithmic management — already play a major role at companies like UPS, Uber and Amazon, which outsource tasks to a large pool of online workers.

New research from ICT and Fujitsu Laboratories shows that to enhance worker motivation in a crowdwork environment, worker autonomy and transparency in regard to how completed tasks have been solved is imperative.

Perceptions of autonomy can enhance productivity, especially when the work holds intrinsic meaning for workers, yet crowdwork often seems meaningless. According to the researchers, “More problematically, the meaning of the work is sometimes hidden due to security or experimental control, like when the workers serve as subjects in a scientific experiment. Enhancing user motivation and performance through human-agent interaction is an important challenge, not only for algorithmic management but in other AI disciplines, including educational technology, personal health maintenance, computer games, personal productivity monitoring and crowdsourcing.”

Researchers investigate how to maintain worker motivation

To test the management applications, ICT researchers conducted an online experiment investigating how perceptions of autonomy and the meaningfulness of work shape crowdworker motivation. Yuushi Toyoda, senior researcher for Fujitsu Laboratories, and USC researchers Jonathan Gratch and Lucas examined alternative techniques to maintain crowdworker motivation when their work is additionally managed by an algorithm.

“Given that system designers might be designing autonomous agents that perform some management tasks in the context of algorithmic management, understanding how workers might respond to these systems, especially in remote work conditions, could provide essential guidance for designers,” Toyoda said.

The team found that workers are more motivated when their work has meaning and algorithmic management is framed in a way that highlights worker autonomy. For example, when performing a tedious task like counting the number of infected blood cells on a laboratory slide, workers perform better when they are told about a societally meaningful goal — such as curing an infectious disease — and when feedback supports autonomy with helpful prompts and queries.

“We found that when people knew the goal was to help cure a disease, they actually overreported the number of infected cells. Their desire to see the work succeed actually undermined the usefulness of their work,” said Gratch, ICT director for virtual human research and a USC Viterbi professor of computer science.

In contrast, when the work holds no meaning, productivity is only enhanced when algorithmic management falls back on authoritative managerial control, framing the algorithm as a boss that commands conformity rather than promotes autonomy. That can be a challenge, as it is not always possible to provide the meaning behind a task because this information can sometimes bias results, the researchers said.

The new findings highlight the importance of autonomy and meaningfulness in a crowdwork environment and contribute to the growing body of literature in algorithmic management and human-AI interaction. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft currently use algorithmic management via an app that gives employees freedom in scheduling and routes, and findings by the USC research team suggest ways such systems can be improved.


USC’s ICT joins entertainment industry artists with computer and social scientists to explore immersive media for military training, health therapies, education and more. Researchers study how people engage with computers through virtual characters, video games and simulated scenarios. ICT is a leader in the development of virtual humans who look, think and behave like real people. Established in 1999, ICT is a U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center.

The research is supported in part by Fujitsu Laboratories of America and the U.S. Army.

USC Webinar Addresses Impact of COVID-19 on Telemedicine

The COVID-19 crisis has led to an unprecedented increase in the use of telemedicine. To assess what that means for healthcare now and in the long term, the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics gathered experts for a widely viewed webinar on May 19.

Learn more here.

TechNews World Speaks with David Krum

The next generation of Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets is in the works, but pandemic-related product development and supply chain problems may delay market arrival.

Oculus, which is a division of Facebook, has multiple potential Quest successors on the drawing board, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. Smaller, lighter versions with a faster image refresh rate for more realistic rendering are in the advanced testing stage.

Facebook planned to reveal the new models at its annual Oculus Connect conference at the end of the year, but it may have to wait until 2021 to start shipping them because of COVID-19, according to Bloomberg.

The models being tested reportedly are 10-15 percent smaller and weigh about a pound. The current Quest headset weighs 1.25 pounds and can be taxing when worn for extended periods of time.

Saving a few grams here and there can make the headset less tiring to wear, noted David Krum, associate director of the Institute for Creative Technologies’ MxR Lab at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

“The fatigue and discomfort adds up over time, so a small weight savings means you will find it more pleasant to wear. You will be able to wear it longer and get more done,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Continue reading in TechNews World.

Expanding the Utility and Interoperability of Rapidly Generated Terrain Datasets

Reality modeling advancements now allow for the generation of high-resolution 3D models from a variety of sources to rapidly meet modeling and simulation needs.

Continue reading in Trajectory Magazine.


Can a Building Help Thwart the Next Active Shooter?

USC researchers imagine a future in which building security provides a dynamic response to active shooters.

Continue reading in the Spring 2020 issue of USC Viterbi’s Magazine.

The Spoils of Playing War

To build even stronger partnerships with entertainment and academia, the army founded the Institute for Creative Technologies in 1999 at the University of Southern California. Into the 2000s, the CIA ‘worked with’ the scriptwriter of Zero Dark Thirty and the US Navy was listed ‘producer’ on four 2012 big-budget releases. Such synergy means reduced production budgetsfor studios, including low-cost access to military locations and high-end technology. In return, the military can inject pro-war and pro-nationalist framings into scripts.

Continue reading in Red Pepper.

Study: VR Helps You Feel Calm and Connected During Coronavirus Quarantine

CNBC speaks with Dr. Skip Rizzo about the benefits VR can provide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full article here.

Artificial intelligence is preserving our ability to converse with Holocaust survivors even after they die

60 Minutes features a segment on the New Dimensions in Testimony project in time for the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and of the liberation of concentration camps across Europe.

Watch the full piece here.

USC Consultants Discover New Applied Sciences to Fight COVID-19

From digital actuality and machine studying to smartphone apps and super computing energy, researchers are figuring out which applied sciences would be the most helpful within the battle towards the coronavirus.

Continue reading in Medical Today Chronicle.

USC Experts Explore How New Technologies to Combat COVID-19

From virtual reality and machine learning to smartphone apps and supercomputing power, researchers are determining which technologies will be the most useful in the battle against the coronavirus.

Continue reading USC News.

IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications

A Modest iPad Update Holds the Key to Apple’s AR Future

THIS WEEK, APPLE debuted a  new iPad Pro. It has a little more power than the previous model, and a keyboard with a trackpad. Neat. But its most consequential upgrade is the one that will likely get the least use, at least on a tablet: a lidar scanner.

If you’ve heard of lidar it’s likely because of self-driving cars. It’s a useful technology in that context because it can build a 3D map of the sensor’s surroundings; it uses pulses of light to gauge distances and locations in a similar way to how radar uses radio signals. In an iPad Pro, that depth-sensing will be put in the service of augmented reality. But it’s not really about the iPad Pro. Apple put a lidar scanner in a tablet to prepare, almost certainly, for when it puts one in a pair of AR glasses.

Continue reading to see ICT’s Jessica Brillhart give commentary to WIRED on the news.

Get Faster, Stronger and Fitter Through the Power of Data

“The data game is about minimizing risk,” Leslie Saxon, a cardiologist and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing, told attendees at an MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. When the USC women’s soccer coach couldn’t figure out why a team with a legacy of national championships wasn’t winning, data from sensors alerted him that players were running six miles the day before a game, Saxon said. The aha moment spurred more rest before competition, leading to more wins and fewer injuries.

Continue reading in the USC Trojan Family Magazine.

Deepfakes: Battle of the Experts

In the last part of the deepfake series for Germany’s Shift series on Spektrum, computer scientist Hao Li explains why you should create deepfakes yourself.

Watch the video here.

Deepfakes: The Next Big Threat to American Democracy?

As anxieties about foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election grow, concerns about other vectors of misinformation are evident. Deepfakes, realistic video forgeries, have some of the most damaging potential.

Continue reading in Government Technology.

Virtual Reality Research Helps Veterans with PTSD

When Chris Merkle retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010, he struggled to overcome the lingering trauma of having served in Iraq and Afghanistan. While he met with a therapist regularly, Merkle found it difficult to share his overseas experience.

“I was not prepared or ready to deal with the trauma, so I just talked about surface-level problems,” Merkle said. 

His therapist recommended the Bravemind project, which uses virtual reality technology to treat conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients are outfitted with a head-mounted virtual display and led by a therapist through a stress-inducing war environment. Participants physically hold a rifle as they experience a simulation that includes booming explosions and even smells of burning debris. 

Continue reading in the Daily Trojan.

AI Therapists May Eventually Become Your Mental Health Care Professional

Psychological well being is a courageous new frontier for synthetic-intelligence and device-studying algorithms driven by “big information.” Just before extensive, if some ahead-wanting psychologists, medical doctors and enterprise-cash investors have their way, your therapist could be a digital human able to listen, counsel and even invoice for that 50-moment hour.

Continue reading, via ABC 14 News in Colorado.

How Martin Luther King Jr. Was Recreated in Virtual Reality

See how TIME partnered with Digital Domain, using ICT’s Light Stage for the scanning process, in recreating the 1963 March on Washington.

How AI ‘Therapists’ Could Shrink the Cost of Mental Health

Could machines that look, act and sound human replace psychologists and psychiatrists? Probably not — that possibility is limited so far by a lack of technological understanding and infrastructure — but many clinicians fear this future nonetheless. Virtual therapists are available anytime, anywhere. “They’re never tired, never fatigued; they can build a giant database of what you say and how you say it,” says Skip Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Continue reading in MarketWatch.

Deepfake Showing Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr. Shows How Seamless Tech Can Be

The clip, while fun to imagine the recasting, shows how good deepfake technology has become, leaving some concerned that what voters see this political season is far from reality.

And deepfakes are not new, with CNN investigating the technology more than a year ago.

University of Southern California professor Hao Li called the practice of deepfakes scary, in an interview with the BBC.

“We are already at the point where you can’t tell the difference between deepfakes and the real thing,” Li said, despite developing a deepfake program.

Continue reading and/or watch the full segment, via CBS Atlanta.

Virtual Reality Applications That Can Help Save Lives

With more advancements in technology, we can expect to see more VR applications in the field of medicine, healthcare, crisis management, and other industries.

Continue reading in AR Post.

NPC Newsmaker: Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to announce new initiatives

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie speaks at a National Press Club Newsmaker on Wednesday, February 5 announcing new initiatives designed to better serve America’s veterans and their families.

Secretary Wilkie discussed the Trump Administration’s plan to prevent veteran suicide, and outlined how the VA will implement the kinds of sweeping organizational changes needed to optimize new technologies and innovations and provide veterans with modern services. 

Watch here.

VR Exposure Therapy Provides Treatment Option for PTSD

“More than just sights and sounds,” explains Dr. Rizzo, “Bravemind uses a virtual reality headmounted display, directional 3-D audio, vibrations, and smells to generate a truly immersive recreation of the events that can be regulated at a pace the patient can handle.”

Continue reading in VR Fitness Insider.

How Virtual Reality Can Help Treat Mental Health Conditions

Two thirds of people with mental health disorders will never see a health-care professional. Here’s how VR can draw people to therapy.

Watch the full segment on MarketWatch.

Arkansas Vets Suicide Program Gets D.C. Audience

A House Veterans Committee panel Tuesday reviewed programs from across the country, including one from the Natural State, that are helping to lower suicide rates among veterans.

There was even a presentation from SoldierStrong, which is described as a “Virtual Reality therapy program.”

Wearing goggles, a veteran can see, hear and even smell high-stress simulations.

“Consistent exposure therapy can gradually make difficult memories less harrowing,” a description of the program stated.

Audience members were able to view some of the SoldierStrong images on a screen and listen to some of the sounds.

“Two things that aren’t here today are a rumble board; it’s a series of speakers that add a tactile element to the immersive experience. And also, we have a scent dispenser. … It increases the immersive experience: things like burnt rubber, sweat [and] explosions,” said Sharon Mozgai, a research analyst with the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Continue reading.

Virtual Reality System Helping North Texas Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress

Clinicians are training this week on the StrongMind system, donated by the charitable organization SoldierStrong.

North Texas is one of 13 VA facilities across the country to receive one, including VA medical centers in Houston and San Antonio.

Rather than asking veterans to recall their stressful memories, or imagine the scenarios as part of their therapy, StrongMind puts them in the middle of something they can see, hear, feel and even smell.

Continue reading and watch the full segment on CBS DFW.

Home from War: Asheville VA Aims to Help Veterans with PTSD through Virtual Reality

“If done in the hands of a well-trained clinician, at a pace that the patient can handle, we can really help a patient to go back and confront and reprocess very difficult emotional memories, but in a safe environment,” said Skip Rizzo, research professor at USC Institute for Creative Technologies.

Continue reading the article and watch the segment on WLOS.

Army Modernization Translates into Accepting Risk and Learning Quickly

Two years ago, the Army recognized the need to rapidly and persistently modernize our force to stay ahead of technological change and national competitors.

Continue reading in The Hill.

Army Targeting Goggles, VR Training May Use JEDI Cloud

The Army’s building a detailed VR map of the planet and the service’s CIO sees JEDI as the logical place to host such a massive database. 

Continue reading in Breaking Defense.

Deepfakes: A Threat to Democracy Or Just a Bit of Fun

Live from the World Economic Forum, BBC talks deepfakes with Hao Li.

Deepfakes: Do Not Believe What You See

From the World Economic Forum in Davos, ICT’s Hao Li talking about deepfake technology , its potential implications on society, and how we need to react.

Watch here.


“We use AI to actually synthesize digital humans.” Developers of deepfakes are making huge advances, allowing people to digitally change faces in real time.

Via Bloomberg.  

Pinscreen’s Real-Time Deepfake Demo

The video presents a state-of-the-art demo of a real-time DeepFake face-swapping technology. What we see is both amazing and terrifying. 

The demo was set up for the World Economic Forum in Davos to raise awareness of the danger of deepfakes. It will help shoe advanced video manipulation technologies and show how they can be misused for the purpose of disinformation. 

Just imagine the potential power of the app. It was developed by Hao Li, CEO/Co-Founder of Pinscreen, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California, and the director of the Vision and Graphics Lab at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. His work focuses on digitizing humans and capturing their performances for immersive communication and telepresence in virtual worlds.

Learn more here.

International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) 2020

OVR Technology Is Creating Olfactory Virtual Reality for Health Care, Education and Training

A key collaborator who has helped guide development of the Architecture of Scent is Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a research professor at the University of Southern California and director for medical virtual reality at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies. He researches the use of VR to assess, treat, rehabilitate and increase resilience in psychology patients. Rizzo received the American Psychological Association’s 2010 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Treatment of Trauma for his work using virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat PTSD.

Continue reading.

Good Cop, Good Cop: Can VR Help to Make Policing Kinder?

As police forces in the US and elsewhere wrangle with accusations of bias and brutality, a quiet effort is underway using VR to boost empathy and reduce trigger responses. Some of the largest police forces in the US are experimenting with VR to build empathy, self-reflection and resilience, as well as hopefully shed their reputation for aggression.

Professor Albert ‘Skip’ Rizzo is a VR veteran stationed at the University of Southern California. He and his colleagues have been working with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on a pilot project to help police officers build the resilience necessary in their line of work. He is optimistic about what VR could do for the police. “We’re not just willy-nilly throwing technology at problems: there’s a pretty solid rationale for this,” he said.

Continue reading in Engineering & Technology.

Is Seeing Still Believing? The Deepfake Challenge to Truth in Politics

This report from The Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology (AIET) Initiative is part of “AI Governance,” a series that identifies key governance and norm issues related to AI and proposes policy remedies to address the complex challenges associated with emerging technologies.

Continue reading.

Deepfakes: Informed Digital Citizens are the Best Defense Against Online Manipulation

Deepfakes, a specific form of disinformation that uses machine-learning algorithms to create audio and video of real people saying and doing things they never said or did, are moving quickly toward being indistinguishable from reality

Detecting disinformation powered by unethical uses of digital media, big data and artificial intelligence, and their spread through social media, is of the utmost urgency.

Continue reading in The Conversation.