Panelists including XVIVO founder Michael Astrachan on stage at UConn Science Salon.

This week, XVIVO’s Founder and Creative Director, Michael Astrachan, spoke on an invited panel of guests at UCONN’s Science Salon to discuss “Seeing Things: Virtual Reality Hits Mainstream.” Michael was honored to speak alongside the other accomplished panelists: Patrick Belinger, Creator of NovaSwarm; Horea Ilies, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UCONN; and Zach Stone, Vice President at Vuzix Corporation. The event was held at the Pratt and Whitney Museum & Hangar in East Hartford, among the massive aircraft engines on display.

Michael Astrachan, XVIVO Founder and President speaking at the UCONN Science Salon on Virtual Reality

Before the panel discussion, the audience members were able to demo some VR hardware. Then, the panelists discussed how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are being used in games, social interactions, and education, and what the future of VR/AR holds and how it will impact our lives. From Michael’s career experience, he discussed many emerging therapeutic uses of VR in health and medicine, such as distraction therapy for pain management, and VR/AR experiences to treat phobias, eating disorders, or social anxiety.

Some of the discussion points on the future of AR were getting the technology to a wider audience, using 5G cellular data networks that will enable AR anywhere (not just on a Wi-Fi network), incorporating more haptics and new rendering algorithms into the devices, and using machine learning. Michael also added that the use of VR and AR may help reveal things about our consciousness and help us appreciate our own reality. “What’s great about VR is that you can put on the headset and have a very unique experience in a virtual realm. When you take off the headset, you can learn something from that experience and bring it through to your life.”

As an alumnus of UCONN, Michael was delighted to serve on the panel and interact with current students and faculty. He is impressed by the quantity of research they’re devoting to VR/AR at UCONN, including student research, and is excited about the possibilities of where this research might lead.

If you’re interested in checking the UCONN Science Salon events, upcoming sessions will discuss genomics and sustainability.