Posts by David Nelson

MxR Research in Sense Making and Decision Making

MxR Lab Associate Director, David Krum and Creative Director David Nelson discuss their research in cognitive task training, data-collection, analysis and visualization for Tank Platoon Commander training in an interview with US Army News.


David Nelson

As part of the “Rosetta Project” MxR Lab and Studio’s effort to study the developing Language of VR and formulate best practices for immersive Mixed Reality content development, I have tried to compose an analog of a film logline for a Virtual Reality Experience (VRE). The intention is to help illustrate the various types of experiences one can have in VR and to communicate the creative intention of the VRE. This effort is mostly sponsored by the Army Research Office, under our Emerging Concepts in Virtual Environments for Training project. The template (below) may require additional development, but it has proven quite useful in communicating the projects we are developing at the MxR Studio with our Summer Crunch student teams.


A participant puts on the HMD Platform and they are transported to Location/Environment, where they are able to Level of Agency/Interaction , which leads them to discover Theme or Objective. The experience ends and the participant experiences an Emotional Impact.


BlueShark copy


Loglines are a tool used to summarize a feature length script in one or two sentences, illustrating the essential elements of the story. A logline can be a story barometer because if one cannot articulate the sum of a script in a succinct sentence or two it may highlight problems with the story from the outset.

Loglines typically contain a few key elements:

  • The main character.
  • The world where the story takes place.
  • The main character’s goal or desire.
  • The obstacle/opposition that prevents the main character from achieving their goal.
  • The stakes (sometimes the theme or emotional hook is stated here as well)


An unrelenting CIA operative must track down the elusive Osama Bin Laden as she risks it all against his fanatical followers and her own bureaucratic agency. (Zero Dark Thirty)

A precocious private high school student whose life revolves around his school competes with its most famous and successful alumnus for the affection of a first grade teacher. (Rushmore)

Three bumbling groomsmen lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him before the wedding begins. (The Hangover)



A participant puts on the HMD Platform and they are transported to Location/Environment, where they are able to Level of Agency/Interaction , which leads them to discover Theme or Objective. The experience ends and the participant experiences an Emotional Impact.

A user puts on an Oculus Rift and is transported to the bridge of a ship where they are able to use a virtual touchscreen to control the ship and ‘teleport’ to various views around the ship, providing a deeper level of situational awareness than is available in the physical world, leaving the user inspired from getting a glimpse into what a future Naval workplace might be like. (BlueShark, ICT)

A participant puts on an HTC Vive and is transported to a stark open space where they are able to use their hand-controllers as paintbrushes. They find that they can create 3D painting/sculptures in the space around them, discovering their own artistic talent and providing a fantastic and magical experience. (Tilt Brush, Google)

A participant puts on a Samsung Gear VR headset and is transported to the shores of Liberia, where they are able to look around to take in the sights and sounds around them. The voice of a woman narrator is heard in prayer, discussing her experience with a recent outbreak of Ebola, as the participant is brought to witness many scenes of recovery around present day Liberia. The intimate sense of presence evokes a feeling of empathy in the participant, having become privy to one person’s story amidst this global event. (Waves of Grace, Within)

The MxR Lab continues to research and experiment with VR content creation in search of the new grammar that will be used as the building blocks of the developing Language of VR .


Mark Bolas and others shed light on Light Fields at VES presentation at ICT

Along with Paul Debevec (ICT), Jules Ubach from Otoy and Jon Karafin from Lytro, Mark Bolas presented information on the past, present and future of Light Field imaging at the Visual Effects Society presentation hosted by USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.


A comprehensive historical timeline of USC’s involvement in and influence on the current VR revolution is complete and is being displayed at the School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media building, SCI 2nd Floor. Along with the timeline an adjacent Display Case houses seminal artifacts including NASA Ames Research Center VIEW Lab’s, goggle and glove system, and the MxR Lab’s FOV2GO cardboard immersive viewer prototypes from 2012 among many others.

Mark Bolas Introduces “Near-Field VR” in Wired Article

“There is a special place in virtual reality—we call it Near-Field VR,” says Mark Bolas, director for mixed reality research at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies. “It is the place that is within arm’s reach of a user, and it is magical, as it provides the best stereoscopic and motion cues of VR. Hands are very important to enable interaction in this region.” Bolas discusses Near-Field VR and finger tracking in WIRED article

For more of the MxR Lab’s work in Near-Field VR check out:

VR May Save The World: Mark Bolas Delivers Opening Keynote at UIST 2014

“We are redefining and creating what it means to be human in this new physical/virtual integrated reality – we are not just designing user interfaces, we are designing users.” In his opening keynote, Mark Bolas discussed the development of satisfying user interfaces and the rules of engagement as things become increasingly virtual and surreal. He illustrated one example by distributing sheets of bubble wrap to all attendees.