Augmented – Virtual – Mixed Reality

Both Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have been around for decades, but they have yet to become part of mainstream life.  This is now changing.  These capabilities are no longer just for entertainment.  They have serious applications ranging from training and education, to military situational awareness, to health, to cultural awareness.  The field of AR/VR promises to have a profound impact, and we must address potential policy issues as the technology develops rather than after the genie is out of the bottle.


Tim Marler, lablet lead

Tim Marler is a senior research engineer at RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.  His work revolves around modeling and simulation with a focus on AR/VR, training simulators and virtual environments, human modeling and simulation, multi-objective optimization (including decision making and game theory), and emerging technology.  Marler is particularly interested in developing new capabilities and technologies, ensuring they respond to user needs, and ensuring they transfer to the public effectively.  Having started a few companies as an entrepreneur, Marler also has considerable interest in technology transfer.  He currently serves on the Department of Commerce’s Materials and Equipment Technical Advisory Committee within the Bureau of Industry and Security.


Experiments in the AR/VR lablet can span a range of topics with various policy implications.  Some potential examples are provided below, followed by current ongoing experiments.  Feel free to use these ideas as a launching pad for your own explorations.

Potential Experiments

    1. What are the health effects of extensive VR use, what are the market implications, and how should industry respond?
    2. What does it take to be “emersed”, what triggers addiction, and how detrimental would addiction to VR be? If users remain happy and healthy, and they continue to have a positive impact on society – albeit via a VR medium – is it a problem?
    3. What are the market and policy implications if/as the price of VR hardware and content decreases and the technology becomes more accessible? Is there a risk that it is used more frequently where it may not necessarily add value, with the “gimmick” of VR becoming more pervasive?  To what extent might this perceived risk stifle more valuable applications and benefits?
    4. As with Serious Gaming, how might insufficient business models threaten more extensive but practical adoption? How can development and deployment of serious capabilities leverage investments and revenues in the entertainment sector?
    5. How can AR/VR increase the effectiveness and reduce the cost of training, especially with respect to policing, de-escalation, and decision-making under stress.  How is the effectiveness of VR-based training measured?
    6. How can VR-based training games be integrated with an electroencephalogram
      and adapt to a user’s brain activity?
    7. How could VR/AR be used to enable virtual travel and help increase cultural awareness without the usual expenses of travel?
    8. VR/AR has seen applications as a method for actual medical treatment for PTSD.  How else might it be used for health benefits?
    9. How could AR/VR be used to increase situational awareness for first responders and for warfighters?
    10. Fundamentally, AR/VR provides new ways of representing information and data, so how might it be used for policy analysis? How can AR/VR be used to tell complex stories more effectively, in order to disseminate research findings and communicate with stakeholders?

Ongoing Experiments

Capabilities and Facilities

The Tech and Narrative Lab is growing and now has a suite of hardware to support your experiments related to AR/VR:

    • HTC Vive Pro VR goggles with two tracking cameras and two hand controllers
    • Three sets of Oculus Quest-2 VR/AR goggles and hand controllers
    • Unity and Unreal game engines for creating virtual content
    • Spacial software for real time VR-based meetings
    • 3X Alienware Aurora R7 Desktop Workstation for running your own VR simulations
    • Moven Inertial Motion Capture suit with 16 sensors for tracking human motion
    • Empatica E4 Wrist Band for monitoring heart rate, heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, and skin temperature
    • FitBit Flex for monitoring steps, calories burned, sleeping patterns, and overall activity
    • IoT Capabilities, including computer vision, depth sensing, and other environmental sensors, for interconnecting various systems, and acquiring and analyzing data during experiments
    • Electroencephalogram (EEG) for monitoring cognitive activity during AR/VR use

Critical Reading


    • Sutherland, I., E. (1968), “A Head-mounted Three Dimensional Display,” Fall Joint Computer Conference.
    • Conn, C., Lanier, J., Minsky, M., Fisher, S., Druin, A. (1989), “Virtual environments and interactivity: Windows to the future.” In ACM SIGGRAPH 89 Panel Proceedings, 7-18.
    • Stephenson, N. (1992), Snow Crash.
    • Cline, E. (2011), Ready Player One.