Henry Fuchs

Professor of Computer Science and Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Henry Fuchs (PhD, University of Utah, 1975) is the Federico Gil Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is one of three co-directors (together with Nadia Thalmann and Markus Gross) of the BeingThere International Research Center in Telepresence, collaboration between ETH Zurich, NTU Singapore, and UNC Chapel Hill. Active in computer graphics since the 1970s, Fuchs has written or coauthored some 200 articles on a variety of topics, including rendering algorithms (BSP Trees), graphics hardware (Pixel-Planes), virtual environments, telepresence, medical and training applications. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, recipient of the 1992 ACM SIGGRAPH Achievement Award and the 2013 IEEE VGTC Virtual Reality Career Award.


Prospects for Immersive Virtual Reality and Telepresence for Archaeology

A few pioneering archaeologists have begun to explore immersive virtual reality systems, such as CAVEs, to construct 3D models of excavated structures and explore these ancient sites in these immersive 3D environments. Unfortunately, because these immersive installations are so expensive, there are very few of them and so the reconstructed environments can be experienced and studied by only the few students and colleagues who can travel to these major VR installations. This situation may soon change, because basic VR technology is about to undergo rapid development. This VR revolution was sparked by the recent availability of HD displays for minitablets, which turn out to be just the right physical size for a wide-angle head-worn stereo display. This display, when combined with other smartphone technologies (such as inertial sensors and cameras), will likely make high quality VR systems as inexpensive as minitablets. The potential for millions of customers of such VR systems is likely to stimulate application developers, as well as developers of add-on hardware devices for these VR systems--for a variety of markets, such as entertainment, education, health care, sports, even real estate and telepresence. Archeology may also benefit from these inexpensive, high-quality VR systems and their software and hardware ecosystem.  For starters, the pioneering archaeologists who developed 3D models of excavated sites will soon be able to distribute them to each of their students, who can explore them individually or in groups.  These models could also readily be shared with distant professional colleagues and their students worldwide.  Also, many of the hardware and software 3D scanning devices, ones developed for consumer use, are likely to be useful to archaeology. These devices, some of which are already hand-held, can now scan a room-sized environment in a few minutes. In the not-to-distant future, they may scan such environments in real-time, thus enabling easy real-time 3D telepresence. Such telepresence may be useful for real-time consultation (and remote teaching) from sites during active excavation.  Even a supposedly "minor" unexpected find may then trigger a consultation with a remote specialist colleague (like a phone call now), who could remotely "walk around" the site and discuss possible changes to the direction of the excavation, in light of this latest discovery.  If, indeed, such VR systems will have millions of users, then dissemination to the public of archaeological findings may be channeled not just to newspapers and television, but also toward interactive immersive VR media, the same VR technology that would be used by the archaeologists themselves. Thus instead of television programs, archaeologists may guide members of the public in (pre-recorded) immersive "walk around" tours of archeological sites and their associated reconstructions. In addition to the expert guide, the reconstructed sites may be populated by  (avatar or real) reenactors, illustrating what ancient life was like in the various parts of the site.  These and other, as yet unforeseen technologically enabled developments, promise exciting, dramatic changes for the coming decade.