‘The Blank Canvas’ – hacking nature

May 6, 2017

Interview with Boo Aguilar - director of 'BLANK CANVAS' - gala Opening VR project of VR Sci fest 2017.

Boo leads projects on the intersection of technology, philosophy, science and arts, transitioning in topics like bioengineering, AI and Nanotech with partners and clients who are leaders in those fields, such as MIT, IBM, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Unity Technologies, Dassault and Volkswagen.


Can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m Boo Aguilar,

Technological evangelist, developer, futurist, and Researcher of human-computer interaction processes. I’m head of next generation experiences at FLAGCX, and together we also began a new venture called Snowcrash, which is 100% focused on next generation experiences mixing technologies like XR/VR/AR/MR, AI, and cognitive computing.

At Flag, we shipped seminal work for immersive mediums like VR, AR, and MR, many of them with early access invitations to use the world’s first kits of many technologies like the Rift, Vive, and Microsoft Hololens.

Why have you started to work with VR?

In 2008 I saw a video called ‘world builder,’ in 2009 I’ve discovered Allosphere. I guess that’s where it all started. I quickly engaged in building caves and using pre oculus rift vr equipment. Back then it was a bunch of super bulky and expensive equipment like Polhemus hardware, big projectors and hacked screens with gyros and visual or magnetic trackers. It was a mess but it was fun, we had no idea we would have the consumer equipment and platforms we have today in such a short period.

Your VR project ‘THE BLANK CANVAS’ will be GALA OPENING project of VR Sci Fest 2017. Can you tell us more about ‘THE BLANK CANVAS’?

The most disruptive technologies of our time are definitely in the intersection of biotechnology and information technology. The most brilliant minds of our time are using bioengineering and Information Technology tools to do things like “3dprint”, DNA, or, hack HIV viruses and -other viruses- to treat diseases like cancer, and also to deliver genes to specific tissues of our bodies with high precision and specificity. In mice, beyond treating cancer, Alzheimer and other chronic diseases, that means restoring hearing, vision, bone marrow integrity and even changing hair color.

But the concepts behind all of those remarkable breakthroughs and technologies, like CRISPR and Cas9 for instance, remain really hard to grasp, to understand, using traditional media formats like text, images, and even videos, because those innovations happen in scales so small we can barely understand, let alone visualize in rich context.

Better tools to visualize complex scientific concepts are needed. An important shift is going on right now on leading US education institutions like Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Yale: from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ARTS an mathematics).

VR is the ultimate driver of empathy, and it’s also the way to go on education and data visualization, since the user is immersed within a rich context and has an enhanced perception of scale.

Did you meet any skepticism or resistance to VR technology in you academic environment?

I feel like before 2013 there was a lot more skepticism. After Oculus made that historic Kickstarter campaign and received investments by Facebook things changed a lot.

The motto of VR Scientific Festival is ‘to see the unseen.’ Do you use or plan to use VR for cases where our eyes are not able to see, and only our imagination and scientific information can produce the visualization?

Yes, that’s the whole point of doing the Blank Canvas. VR has the possibility to take us with presence to what Plato described in the theory of ideas -and that is awesome.

How will academical landscape change in the nearby future?

Technologies like XR, but also cognitive computing, AI, and deep machine learning will change a lot the way we do science.
We’re gaining the ability to collaborate with peers worldwide in the same virtual space, in virtual landscapes mimicking cells, patient’s bodies to do surgical planning, engineering environments with robotics simulation, or any other area connected to databases and AI assistants connected to the entire world’s knowledge database.

One of the most significant things, in my opinion, is that since AI like IBM’s Watson can generate concise reports in seconds swiping through vast amounts of data, researchers will not get away anymore doing lazy and biased review papers, and another good thing is that people will begin publishing more negative results – because negative results feed Watson, and that’s a good thing. So now you have incentives to publish negative results, and AI will be responsible for reviewing it, and they have no ego or economical pressure, so it’s a point of no return.
By mixing immersive tech and Ai we will collectively create awesome collaboration tools in the next few years.


Do not miss Gala opening Event at Epicenter 12 of May 18:00 – 21:00