#64: Terry Beaubois on architecture in VR, robotic telepresence at NASA, & the Golden Age of Immersion with the Internet of Things

Terry Beaubois is the director of Montana State University’s Creative Research Lab, and he talks about how he used Second Life to teach architecture classes and the different limitations he faced from having an imprecise physics model in the virtual world.

Terry-BeauboisHe talks about the other potential for using architecture within virtual reality as well as starting to think about how a physical space can interact with you through the Internet of Things, and the implications of living in a smart home that is aware of who you are, where you’re at, and you behavioral patterns.

Terry also talks about his different VR projects that he’s been working on since the early 80s with doing telepresence applications for NASA so that astronauts could control robots through a virtual reality interface.


  • 0:00 – Teaching at Stanford and talking about lessons on VR. Been doing VR since the 80s with NASA doing robotic telepresence. Motorcycle helmet with CRT monitors and wires. Data glove. Involved with VRML and early days of Second Life. Going to be experimenting with Terf VR program, which is a follow-up to Croquet & Qwaq.
  • 3:09 – Seems like a natural fit for architecture. Different between building a house in VR vs. designing a house for how it’ll actually be built. Second Life and VR programs need to have accurate physics models in order to have a 1:1 mapping of reality and to do actual architectural design. Currently have to do workarounds, which isn’t teaching real architecture.
  • 5:55 – Would love to see accurate physics models within a VR engine for architectural purposes.
  • 7:05 – Importance of spaces and design principles for architecture. Creates a context that blends in with reality. Architecture needs to have sensory awareness and be plugged into the Internet of Things. Entering an age of enormous amount of information being shared. Architecture could be a participant in peoples lives through sensors and detecting your identity and patterns of living. Not a lot of imagination for what a smart building would mean
  • 10:00 – Entering a golden age where everything will communicate with everything. Track medical biometrics and share to relevant parties. Singularity will be a non-event because we still people to help interpret the meaning CERN is generating an enormous amount of data, and it still requires humans to look at it
  • 12:04 – History of VR since the 1980s. Human’s connection to a virtual avatar could be relevant and cognizant of your physical avatar because we’re not connected to what our human life form is in charge of maintaining. VR can help us with deal with who we are. VR will enable helping people deal with phobias. He meets the most creative and fun people in virtual worlds. VR will be a tool that will develop and evolve over time. Lots of uses for training. They physics engine will get there eventually to be more relevant for architecture.
  • 16:08 – VR and Architecture business engagements, and be used to build something and preview it beforehand. Perhaps VR to 3D printing and have lots of iterations.
  • 17:25 – Being able to experience a architecturally design space in VR before it’s created
  • 18:14 – Dealing with the Wild West with no rules in Second Life and adult content.
  • 18:47 – Future of VR. Thought we’d be where we are with VR back in 1985. Good thing we don’t know how long it’ll take otherwise we may not start things. Humans are hopeful and generally optimistic for how long things take.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio