Tell us a little about your background.
Olivier Mercier: I did my undergraduate studies in Pure Mathematics at the University of Montreal, then completed a Masters in Applied Mathematics at McGill University. I’m now back at the University of Montreal to complete a PhD in Computer Sciences—more precisely in Computer Graphics, where my main focus is on fluid simulations for the film industry. I’ve gradually shifted from theoretical mathematics to more applied computer sciences, and I don’t regret it one bit.
What brought you to Oculus?
OM: I was made aware of the intern position through my PhD advisor. I was a bit skeptical at first that I would be a good fit for the position, since there are a priori no connections between my PhD subject (fluid simulations) and virtual reality. But after interviewing and discussing with the team, it was clear that Oculus Research tackles important, challenging problems that require expertise in all fields of science. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to learn more about these problems, and I was curious to see how I could use my mathematics and computer graphics skills to help solve them.
What's your favorite thing about working at Oculus Research?
OM: The interdisciplinarity of research. During my internship working on the multifocal project, I’ve had to learn about perception science, optics, and electrical and mechanical engineering, which I knew close to nothing about. I’ve had to build my own custom test display and work with an optics bench, which is much more hands-on than the more theoretical research I was used to before working at Oculus. I like the continuous opportunity to learn, and I feel encouraged to do so. The problems Oculus Research tackles are complex, and I think having coworkers with expertise in many different fields of science is why Oculus Research is the right place to advance the field of VR/AR.
What was your very first VR experience? How about your most memorable one?
OM: My first VR experience was with the Oculus DK1 we received at my university lab a couple years ago. I remember spending the whole day with my fellow students playing with the demos available at the time, trying to beat each other’s high scores. Not much productive work was done that day! More recently, one of my most memorable VR moments is not from my own experience, but from watching others experience VR. I had the chance to introduce Rift to many of my friends over the holidays, many of whom don’t play much video games and had never experienced VR before. Watching them throw boomerangs around in Toybox or be out of breath after a session of Robo Recall was very entertaining. Their reactions really showed that VR can be enjoyed by everyone.
How do you think VR and AR will impact our daily lives in the years to come?
OM: One of the uses for VR/AR I’m most excited about is education. The possibility to visualize and manipulate complex shapes and data in 3D makes any concept so much more intuitive and interesting. I think it’s a great tool to stimulate the scientific interest of students, and I wish I could have been introduced to this tool when I was younger.
Thanks to Olivier for taking the time to speak with us—and to the rest of the team at Oculus Research for sharing some of their work. Stay tuned for even more updates on the future of VR and AR in the coming months.
— The Oculus Team