Friday, May 9, 2008

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture Part-6

Randy Pausch: Are you breaking anything back there young man? OK, all right, so in 1993. And I said to Tommy, you know they're probably not going to make those next movies. [laughter] And he said, no, THEY ARE. And Tommy worked with me for a number of years as an undergraduate and then as a staff member, and then I moved to Carnegie Mellon, every single member of my team came from Virginia to Carnegie Mellon except for Tommy because he got a better offer. And he did indeed work on all three of those films.

And then I said, well that's nice, but you know, one at a time is kind of inefficient. And people who know me know that I'm an efficiency freak. So I said, can I do this in mass? Can I get people turned in such a way that they can be turned onto their childhood dreams? And I created a course, I came to Carnegie Mellon and I created a course called Building Virtual Worlds. It's a very simple course. How many people here have ever been to any of the shows?

[Some people from audience raise hands] OK, so some of you have an idea. For those of you who don't, the course is very simple. There are 50 students drawn from all the different departments of the university. There are randomly chosen teams, four people per team, and they change every project. A project only lasts two weeks, so you do something, you make something, you show something, then I shuffle the teams, you get three new playmates and you do it again. And it's every two weeks, and so you get five projects during the semester.

The first year we taught this course, it is impossible to describe how much of a tiger by the tail we had. I was just running the course because I wanted to see if we could do it. We had just learned how to do texture mapping on 3D graphics, and we could make stuff that looked half decent. But you know, we were running on really weak computers, by current standards. But I said I'll give it a try. And at my new university [Carnegie Mellon] I made a couple of phone calls, and I said I want to cross-list this course to get all these other people. And within 24 hours it was cross-listed in five departments. I love this university. I mean it's the most amazing place.

And the kids said, well what content do we make? I said, hell, I don't know. You make whatever you want. Two rules: no shooting violence and no pornography. Not because I'm opposed to those in particular, but you know, that's been done with VR, right? [laughter] And you'd be amazed how many 19-year-old boys are completely out of ideas when you take those off the table. [laughter and clapping]

Anyway, so I taught the course. The first assignment, I gave it to them, they came back in two weeks and they just blew me away. I mean the work was so beyond, literally, my imagination, because I had copied the process from Imagineering's VR lab, but I had no idea what they could or couldn't do with it as undergraduates, and their tools were weaker, and they came back on the first assignment, and they did something that was so spectacular that I literally didn't, ten years as a professor and I had no idea what to do next.

So I called up my mentor, and I called up Andy Van Dam. And I said, Andy, I just gave a two-week assignment, and they came back and did stuff that if I had given them a whole semester I would have given them all As. Sensei, what do I do? [laughter]

And Andy thought for a minute and he said, you go back into class tomorrow and you look them in the eye and you say, "Guys, that was pretty good, but I know you can do better." [laughter] And that was exactly the right advice. Because what he said was, you obviously don't know where the bar should be, and you're only going to do them a disservice by putting it anywhere.

And boy was that good advice because they just kept going. And during that semester it became this underground thing. I'd walk into a class with 50 students in it and there were 95 people in the room. Because it was the day we were showing work. And people's roommates and friends and parents -- I'd never had parents come to class before! It was flattering and somewhat scary.

And so it snowballed and we had this bizarre thing of, well we've got to share this. If there's anything I've been raised to do, it's to share, and I said, we've got to show this at the end of the semester. We've got to have a big show. And we booked this room, McConomy. I have a lot of good memories in this room. And we booked it not because we thought we could fill it, but because it had the only AV setup that would work, because this was a zoo. Computers and everything. And then we filled it. And we more than filled it. We had people standing in the aisle.

I will never forget the dean at the time, Jim Morris was sitting on the stage right about there. We had to kind of scoot him out of the way. And the energy in the room was like nothing I had ever experienced before. And President Cohen, Jerry Cohen was there, and he sensed the same thing. He later described it as like an Ohio State football pep rally. Except for academics. And he came over and he asked exactly the right question. He said, before you start, he said, where are these people from? He said, the audience, what departments are they from? And we polled them and it was all the departments.

And I felt very good because I had just come to campus, he had just come to campus, and my new boss had seen in a very corporal way that this is the university that puts everybody together. And that made me feel just tremendous.

So we did this campus-wide exhibition. People performed down here. They're in costume, and we projected just like this and you can see what's going on. You can see what they're seeing in the head mount. There's a lot of big props, so there's a guy white water rafting. [shows slides of a BVW show]

This is Ben in E.T. And yes, I did tell them if they didn't do the shot of the kids biking across the moon I would fail him. That is a true story. And I thought I'd show you just one world, and if we can get the lights down if that's at all possible. No, ok, that means no. All right. All right we'll just do our best then. [Shows "" world done in the BVW class, audience applauds at the end.]

It was an unusual course. With some of the most brilliant, creative students from all across the campus. It just was a joy to be involved. And they took the whole stage performance aspect of this way too seriously [shows pictures of very strange costumes students wore]. And it became this campus phenomenon every year. People would line up for it. It was very flattering. And it gave kids a sense of excitement of putting on a show for people who were excited about it. And I think that that's one of the best things you can give somebody -- the chance to show them what it feels like to make other people get excited and happy. I mean that's a tremendous gift. We always try to involve the audience. Whether it was people with glow sticks or batting a beach ball around... or driving [shows photo of audience members leaning in their seats to steer a car]. This is really cool.


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