NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Virtual Worlds January 26-27, 2008:
Workshop Report on Virtual Worlds Published as a NASA Conference Proceeding (NASA/CP-2009-214598) Held January 26-27, 2008 at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

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The ideas of Copernicus revolutionized our sense of place in the universe. From a static, immovable sphere around which the heavens revolved, the Earth became part of a larger choreography of patterns and movement. By expanding our view of the universe to accommodate these bold new ideas, we expanded the realm of human contemplation, and in turn opened up immense opportunities for human advancement.

Three dimensional, persistent, immersive, sensory, and interactive virtual representations of data, knowledge and intelligence are one of a handful of technologies today that have a similar long term potential to revolutionize our sense of who we are and where we belong in the universe.

As our ability to query the physical, analog objects and spaces around us gets finer grained in space and time; as our ability to represent the data returned from those queries in virtual environments becomes more sophisticated; and as our ability to create new, fantastic, and convincing 'virtual' experiences entirely outside the realm of physical possibility expands, we may see a substantial change in our concept of what the universe is, how it transmits information, and what space and time mean. We will also see many new technologies, applications, and capabilities along that path.

As an agency tasked with pursuing one of humanity's farthest reaching undertakings, NASA must stay abreast of technologies which are likely to impact the long term future in which these pursuits will be realized. Ames Research Center, in the heart of Silicon Valley and with many of the world's top thinkers at its doorstep, is looking towards that future, exploring where that technology can be taken, and how it can be leveraged in the short and medium term to support and advance space exploration and settlement.

To that end, the workshop will revolve around 3 framing ideas about the evolution of virtual environments:

  1. "We all get to go": The ability to engage anyone in being a part of or contributing to an experience (such as a space mission), no matter their training or location. A new paradigm for education, outreach, and the conduct of science in society that is truly participatory.
  2. "Remote Exploration": The ability to create high fidelity environments rendered from external data or models such that exploration, design and analysis that is truly inter-operable with the physical world can take place within them.
  3. "Become the data": A vision of a potential future where boundaries between the physical and the virtual have ceased to be meaningful. What would this future look like? Is this plausible? Is it desirable? Why and Why not.

Invited lecturers will guide workshop participants in an exploration of these scenarios by hypothesizing potential futures involving each. These "visionary lectures" will contextualize talks on the more immediate, substantive topics of architecture, toolsets, features, applications, and hardware.

This workshop will focus specifically on the convergence of underlying technologies necessary to achieve high fidelity virtual environment experiences, and possible architectures of that convergence. There will be a particular emphasis on how these technologies can support scientific and engineering visualization and analysis. Due to the relatively small size of the workshop, the format will emphasize discussion, and culminate in a breakout session to develop a technical roadmap of opportunities, challenges, and desired outcomes.

We hope you will join us for this exciting weekend.

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NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Author/Curator: Joseph Minafra
NASA Official: Stephanie Langhoff
Last Updated: January 24,2008
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