Friday, May 9, 2008

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture Part-5

Randy Pausch: Here's a lesson for everybody in administration. They both said the same thing. But think about how they said it, right? [In a loud, barking voice] I don't know! [In a pleasant voice] Well, I don't have much information, but one of my star faculty members is here and he's all excited so I want to learn more. They're both ways of saying I don't know, but boy there's a good way and a bad way. So anyway, we got it all worked out. I went to Imagineering. Sweetness and light. And all's well that ends well.

Some brick walls are made of flesh. So I worked on the Aladdin Project. It was absolutely spectacular, I mean just unbelievable. Here's my nephew Christopher. [Shows slide of Christopher on Aladdin apparatus] This was the apparatus. You would sit on this sort of motorcycle-type thing. And you would steer your magic carpet and you would put on the head-mounted display.

The headmounted display is very interesting because it had two parts, and it was a very clever design. To get through put up, the only part that touched the guest's head was this little cap and everything else clicked onto it -- all the expensive hardware. So you could replicate the caps because they were basically free to manufacture. [Showing slide of Randy cleaning a cap] And this is what I really did is I was a cap cleaner during the sabbatical. [laughter]

I loved Imagineering. It was just a spectacular place. Just spectacular. Everything that I had dreamed. I loved the model shop. People crawling around on things the size of this room that are just big physical models. It was just an incredible place to walk around and be inspired. I'm always reminded of when I went there and people said, do you think your expectations are too high? And I said, you ever see the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory? Where Gene Wilder says to the little boy Charlie, he's about to give him the chocolate factory. He says "Well Charlie, did anybody ever tell you the story of the little boy who suddenly got everything he ever wanted?" Charlie's eyes get like saucers and he says, "No, what happened to him?" Gene Wilder says, "He lived happily ever after." [laughter]

OK, so working on the Aladdin VR, I described it as a once in every five careers opportunity, and I stand by that assessment. And it forever changed me. It wasn't just that it was good work and I got to be a part of it. But it got me into the place of working with real people and real HCI user interface issues. Most HCI people live in this fantasy world of white collar laborers with Ph.D.s and masters degrees. And you know, until you got ice cream spilled on you, you're not doing field work. And more than anything else, from Jon Snoddy I learned how to put artists and engineers together, and that's been the real legacy.

We published a paper. Just a nice academic cultural scandal. When we wrote the paper, the guys at Imagineering said, well let's do a nice big picture. Like you would in a magazine. [Showing slide of first page of the paper, with a photo at the top that spans two columns]. And the SIGGRAPH committee, which accepted the paper, it was like this big scandal. Are they allowed to do that? [laughter] There was no rule! So we published the paper and amazingly since then there's a tradition of SIGGRAPH papers having color figures on the first page. So I've changed the world in a small way. [laughter]

And then at the end of my six months, they came to me and they said, you want to do it for real? You can stay. And I said no. One of the only times in my life I have surprised my father. He was like, you're what? He said, since you were, you know [gesturing to height of a child's head],this is all you wanted, and now that you got it, and you're... huh?

There was a bottle of Maalox in my desk drawer. Be careful what you wish for. It was a particularly stressful place. Imagineering in general is actually not so Maalox-laden, but the lab I was in -- oh, Jon left in the middle. And it was a lot like the Soviet Union. It was a little dicey for awhile. But it worked out OK. And if they had said, stay here or never walk in the building again, I would have done it. I would have walked away from tenure, I would have just done it. But they made it easy on me. They said you can have your cake and eat it too. And I basically became a day-a-week consultant for Imagineering, and I did that for about ten years.

And that's one of the reasons you should all become professors. Because you can have your cake and eat it too. I went and consulted on things like DisneyQuest. So there was the Virtual Jungle Cruise. And the best interactive experience I think ever done, and Jesse Schell gets the credit for this, Pirates of the Caribbean. Wonderful at DisneyQuest. And so those are my childhood dreams. And that's pretty good. I felt good about that.

So then the question becomes, how can I enable the childhood dreams of others. And again, boy am I glad I became a professor. What better place to enable childhood dreams? Eh, maybe working at EA, I don't know. That'd probably be a good close second. And this started in a very concrete realization that I could do this, because a young man named Tommy Burnett, when I was at the University of Virginia, came to me, was interested in joining my research group. And we talked about it, and he said, oh, and I have a childhood dream. It gets pretty easy to recognize them when they tell you.

And I said, yes, Tommy, what is your childhood dream? He said, I want to work on the next Star Wars film. Now you got to remember the timing on this. Where is Tommy, Tommy is here today. What year would this have been? Your sophomore year.

Tommy: It was around '93.


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