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Fighting the Virtual War Alumni Vets Get First Look at USC VR AdvancesCould virtual reality technology help the military?

Military veterans think so. That’s after USC alums who have served in the military got a special tour and experience of VR on campus.

The tour took place at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), where USC alumni veterans saw firsthand how virtual reality can help the soldiers in real life.

“Ted Willis ’01 saw right away how the technology could be useful,” according to a USC announcement after the event.

Having been commissioned as an officer and stationed aboard the USS Constitution after graduating from USC’s Naval ROTC program, Willis is chair of the USC Alumni Veterans Network (USCAVN).

All told, he was impressed.

“I was immediately put in position where I oversaw men and women in the military. Being able to go through that in a virtual setting, and make mistakes and learn from them, before doing it front of real people would have been hugely helpful,” said Willis, who was one of about 20 vets who visited campus in June.

“The group saw a demonstration of ELITE, a virtual reality trainer designed to improve counseling and communication skills for new leaders, and other virtual reality technologies developed at the lab, including a treatment for post-traumatic stress,” noted USC.

To date, ICT’s research and development efforts have centered on people. For 15 years, the U.S. Army Research Lab-funded institute has been advancing both the art and science behind virtual human role players — computer-generated characters that look and act like real people. Social simulations provide computer models of individual and group behavior.

ICT Executive Director Randall W. Hill, Jr., also a veteran, believes the tech has real value.

“USC was a natural fit for this type of work because of its leadership in areas like computer science, cinematic arts, education, and management, and because of its strong commitment to military and veterans issues,” said Hill. “It is an honor to see our research making an impact on people’s lives and to share it with the USCAVN group.”

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