Human Interface Technology Laboratory
University of Washington
Founding Director of the Human Interface Technology Lab (HITLab), Dr. Furness is a pioneer in the development of interfaces between humans and complex machines, including one of the first head-mounted displays (HMD). HMDs enable users to feel "immersed" in 3-dimensional computer graphics using visual, auditory and tactile sensory modes. The HITLab, one of the world's premier Virtual Reality (VR) Labs, has included collaborations between scientists and artists since it was formed. A recent collaboration between scientists and artists in Japan, Russia, and the United States is the Magic Book.
The Magic Book is both technically and artistically innovative. It challenges traditional notions of what a book can become in physical reality and in virtual reality. The Magic Book looks like a regular storybook with colorful pages and simple text. When readers look at the same pages wearing head mounted displays (HMD), the pictures pop off the page and come to life as three-dimensional animated virtual scenes. By touching a switch on the HMD, readers can fly into the virtual scene and freely explore the immersive environment. Several readers can gather around a single Magic Book and experience it together. Other collaborations between scientists and artists at the HITLab include virtual environments for treating phobias, Parkinson's disease, and pain experienced by cancer and burn victims; new ways to practice surgery; new technologies that enable physically remote users to collaborate in one virtual world; new laser viewing devices; and wearable computers.