Digital Humans, VR for Mental Health Featured at SIGGRAPH Asia
December 4, 2020

Digital Humans, VR for Mental Health Featured at SIGGRAPH Asia

At the SIGGRAPH Asia 2020 Virtual Conference, the Featured Sessions cast a spotlight on the recent major breakthroughs, techniques, and arts in the field of Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. 
SIGGRAPH Asia brings the computer graphics community together to learn from the industry’s brightest minds. Featured sessions this year include a session on how realistic avatars are being created to digitize humans and help bridge the isolation that is occurring due social distancing requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic; and another on how Virtual Reality is helping with, and will change, the world of Mental Healthcare. 

Clinical Virtual Reality (VR)
Presenter Albert “Skip” Rizzo is a Clinical and Neuro-Psychologist and Director of the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies Medical VR Lab. A research professor at both the USC Dept. of Psychiatry and in the School of Gerontology, Skip researches the design, development and evaluation of VR systems that target areas of clinical assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation in mental health. He has developed and directed VR exposure therapy systems for Iraq/Afghanistan veterans that suffer from combat PTSD, VR game-based applications to promote rehabilitation in persons with CNS dysfunction (e.g., stroke and TBI), and has been involved in the creation of artificially intelligent virtual human patients for clinical training and for creating online virtual human healthcare guides for breaking down barriers to care in psychological health and TBI.

The oft lauded speaker will describe how VR has transitioned over the past 25 years from an expensive toy into functional technology, and how today VR is being used for human clinical treatment and research, known as Clinical Virtual Reality (VR). Skip will discuss seven ways in which Clinical VR is impacting Mental Healthcare to diagnose, assess, and treat, patients with Anxiety Disorders, Depression, PTSD, Acute/Chronic Pain, TBI, Autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, social skill challenges, and other clinical conditions. In each application area, Skip will present the trajectory of Clinical VR over the last 25 years and address the question of whether Clinical VR is ready for primetime.

Digital Humans

In 2020, social distancing became a word and a thing, and avatars and clones were developed to entertain, assist, and help us humans communicate. Relatable discussions are what we, Real Humans, long for, and even more so when isolation is forced upon us.

At SIGGRAPH Asia 2020, researchers will demonstrate the next iterations of virtual companions. A panel discussion led by Christophe Hery, Research Scientist, Facebook Reality Labs and Mike Seymour, Co-founder, fxguide and the Motus Lab USYD, will feature Ronald Mallet, Director of Research, Facebook Reality Labs; Melinda Ozel, Expression Scientist, Owner, Face of the FACS; Mark Sagar, CEO, Soul Machines; and Rudy Grossman, Director of Production Technology, Soul Machines. 

These speakers are pioneers in the field of telepresence and autonomous agents, as well as visual effects and VR/AR practitioners. They present their work and approaches, expand on the ethics involved, and how they envision a bright future for meaningful interactions with Digital Humans.

In-Camera Visual Effects and Unreal Fellowship for Virtual Production
David Morin will lead a session, Creating In-Camera VFX With Real-Time Workflows, to describe how the “in-camera visual effects” technique is changing the film and TV industry. David is Epic Games’ Industry Manager for Film & TV, where he spearheads efforts from the Unreal Engine team to further its development and adoption across the film and television landscape. 

Brian J. Pohl, and Linda Sellheim from Epic Games will discuss Retraining Creative Industries: Unreal Fellowship For Virtual Production at another featured session. Pohl is a Visual Effects Artist and Previsualization Supervisor and veteran of George Lucas’ previs team, and Industrial Light and Magic's art department. At Epic Games, Pohl provides media and entertainment clients with the support they need to integrate Unreal Engine into their creative workflows and technical pipelines. Linda Sellheim is the Education Lead for Epic Games, where she teaches people how to create and collaborate at the intersection of physical and digital spaces. She has a background in illustration and visual storytelling and has been worked and taught art, design, games, and interactive 3D. 

To learn more about the featured sessions at SIGGRAPH Asia 2020, visit