Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering Randy Pausch



So, one of my old professors has been in the news for a while over the past year or so, which has been a bit of a weird experience. Back at Carnegie Mellon, I took the "Building Virtual Worlds" class, which involved teaming up in groups of 4 and creating complete working virtual reality environments (for use with VR helmets and gloves) every two weeks.

The professor for that class was Randy Pausch, who died last Friday of pancreatic cancer. Recently, he's been in the news and press because of his famous Last Lecture. It's weird, because, actually having Randy as a professor, I have mixed feelings about my memories of the class- it was a bit like boot camp in that it was one of the most challenging, hardest, and demanding classes I've ever taken, and Randy wasn't always the easiest person to get along with.

But on the other side, BVW (as it's commonly known), stands out as one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career- I took away so much from that class, and as hard as it was, it was one of my favorites, both for the challenges it presented and for the creative rewards it offered from working in such an unusual medium. (how many people can say they designed and created a whole virtual reality world and then experienced it through a VR helmet?)

And as much as Randy may have had a reputation for being difficult at times (as any student of his will know), it was hard hearing of his battle with cancer over the past year or so, and of his death on Friday, and my deepest thoughts and sorrow go out to his family and friends.

Anyway, this sketch is a small memory of one moment in our BVW class when my team created an interactive Quidditch match (right as Harry Potter was taking off in popularity). We rigged up an exercise bike with a broom, so you could feel like you were actually riding a broomstick through the environment, and using a sensor on the broom, had it so you could turn and adjust speed according to how close the broom was to your helmet. The world definitely had it's kinks though- it had an odd habit of spinning out of control if you turned too quickly, ending up giving the user severe vertigo, and apparently, brooms on exercise bikes are -very- hard to balance on.

(ps- I know I'm leaving out like, a ton of old CMU friends in the audience who were in the class with me- if I recall, both Heather and Mason helped with the Quidditch world, right? I suck at crowd drawings.. )

1 comment:

Julie said...

Hi! I discovered your blog a while back via John's website. Randy Pausch's last lecture brought me to tears, but the real reason I was inspired to de-lurk was your BVW project. I'm a huge HP fan and would have loved trying out your Virtual Quidditch game! :)

/resume lurking

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