ICT and USC School of Social Work To Demo Virtual Reality Educational Technologies at CES

Published: December 22, 2010
Category: Press Releases | News


Dotty Diemer, DDK Communications
562.212.6014, dotty@ddk-communications.com

Cindy Monticue, USC School of Social Work
213.740.2021, monticue@usc.edu

Orli Belman, USC Institute for Creative Technologies
310.709.4156, belman@ict.usc.edu


Video Game-Inspired Virtual Iraq and Patient Avatar to be Demonstrated Live at Consumer Electronics Show

LOS ANGELES– December 15, 2010 – Real-life application of revolutionary virtual technology to train and teach in the classroom will be the focus of the University of Southern California’s display and presentations at the Consumers Electronics Show (CES) Jan. 6-10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), in partnership with the USC School of Social Work, will be demonstrating its Virtual Patient Avatar and its video-game inspired Virtual Iraq technologies, created by ICT and currently being used by the USC School of Social Work to train and prepare social workers to help address the mental health needs of soldiers returning from war.

“Using virtual technology to train students was not something even on the radar 10 years ago,” said Paul Maiden, vice dean of the USC School of Social Work. “With so many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other problems, we are implementing this technology in the classroom to realistically and more practically train thousands of students on how to treat veterans with these types of mental health needs.”

Entering beta testing in School of Social Work classrooms this year, the program is the first application of virtual reality in a social work setting.

“ICT’s virtual reality technology allows humans to interact with computers and extremely complex data in a more natural fashion,” said Dr. Skip Rizzo, ICT’s associate director for medical virtual reality. “Through our research and development, we’ve been able to take technologies once considered expensive toys and functionally apply them to address real-world problems and situations.”

ICT and the USC School of Social Work will be presenting the Virtual Iraq and Virtual Patient technologies at the High Tech U Panel, Thursday, Jan. 6, 12:45 p.m. – 2 p.m. in room N253 of the North Hall, as well as the Living in Digital Times Press Conference at 2 p.m. -2:15 p.m. in room S227 of the South Hall, Upper Level that same day. From Jan. 6 until the show’s closing, attendees at the show will be able to personally experience and test the technologies at the Higher Ed Tech Pavillion located in the North Hall, Grand Lobby, Lower Meeting Room at booth number 3206.

The demonstrations will highlight:

– Virtual Iraq – This virtual, immersive environment recreates the war zone where trauma was experienced, allowing patients to work through their fears. Developed by ICT’s Rizzo, this simulated environment is currently being used by the USC School of Social Work to train students on treating patients with PTSD and other disorders. Virtual Iraq, which was adapted from the Full Spectrum Warrior video game, allows guests to experience the simulation first-hand using its virtual reality goggles, gun-shaped joystick, scent machines and vibrating platform. Click here to view an excerpt.

– Virtual Patient Avatar – The virtual patient is an avatar-based simulation program designed to replicate the experiences of veterans exposed to combat stress and to help prepare students to interact with real clients. Through conversations with digital avatars, created using ICT’s virtual human technology, students hone their clinical and interviewing skills to prepare them for future interactions with soldiers returning from war. A collaboration between the USC School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families and ICT, the virtual patient avatar program is supported by a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. CES attendees will be able to interview and interact with virtual patient Lieutenant Rocco, just as social work students will do as part of their training at USC. Click here to view an interview excerpt with a virtual patient.

The virtual patient avatar is also expected to be made available in the future to USC School of Social Work graduate students via its Virtual Academic Center, a web-based master’s degree program launched in October 2010 that uses a highly advanced web-based platform to conduct live, virtual classes between faculty and students.

About the USC School of Social Work
The University of Southern California’s School of Social Work (www.usc.edu/socialwork) ranks among the nation’s top 10 social work graduate programs (U.S. News & World Report), with the oldest social work master’s and Ph.D. programs in the West. A recognized leader in academic innovation, experiential learning, online education and translational research, the school prepares students for leadership roles in public and private organizations that serve individuals, families and communities in need. This is the only program in the nation offering a military social work curriculum track to prepare social workers to meet the needs of veterans and their families, supported by more than $14 million in appropriations from the U.S. Department of Defense. The school is also a campus exemplar for its research efforts, with funding exceeding $35 million. Our own research institute, the Hamovitch Center for Science in the Human Services, was the first endowed center for interdisciplinary social work research and remains a pioneer in translational science – the acceleration of research findings into practice settings.

About the USC Institute for Creative Technologies
At the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies (ict.usc.edu), high-tech tools and classic storytelling come together to pioneer new ways to teach and to train. Historically, simulations focus on drills and mechanics. What sets ICT apart is a focus on human interactions and emotions—areas that are recognized as increasingly important in developing critical thinking and decision-making skills. ICT is a world leader in developing virtual humans who think and behave like real people and in creating immersive environments to experientially transport participants to other places. ICT technologies include virtual reality applications for mental health treatment and training, videogames for U.S soldiers to hone negotiation and cultural awareness skills and virtual human museum guides who teach science concepts to young people.