A recent job posting to the Oculus career page indicates that Facebook’s 2014 virtual reality acquisition is currently searching for postdoctoral research scientists with experience in psychophysics. According to the posting, the successful candidate will be “tackling the scientific challenges that define cutting-edge virtual and augmented reality, addressing heretofore-unanswered questions in vision science, displays, and perceptual psychology.” The successful candidate will work at a special Oculus research office in Redmond, Washington.
The scientist in question would be joining a team dedicated to what Oculus is calling “perceptual research,” and will “take advantage of internal resources in mechanical, electrical, optical, and software engineering, allowing us to confront scientific questions which cannot be addressed with existing equipment.”
The specific responsibilities of the research scientist will involve:
- Research into perception and human factors, both in terms of basic science and how it informs other research and product directions.
- Collaborate with both internal teams and academia in research to explore perceptual factors, define limits and specifications, and discover opportunities for revolutionary improvement in virtual and augmented reality displays and systems.
- Explore opportunities and requirements to create new virtual experiences and perform research necessary to deliver them.
- Collaborate with other researchers, interns, and engineers to identify and develop experimental systems which allow us to answer novel research questions, involving factors both in isolation and as part of an ecologically valid complete system.
Candidates are expected to have a PhD in vision science, bioengineering, or another related field. This individual will also be expected to have an “understanding of human sensory system(s) and ability to apply this knowledge to develop predictive computational models of perceptual and behavioral responses,” as well as three years experience in the field of psychophysics.
Psychophysics is defined as “
The job posting does not specifically state what projects this new hire will be working on. However, for a virtual reality team like Facebook’s Oculus, the hiring of a psychophysicist indicates an interest in developing more immersive experiences, haptics and hardware.
During a Facebook live stream at the end of last year, led by Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a team of Oculus engineers demonstrated prototype VR controllers that trick the brain into feeling hot and cold temperature changes. According to one of the engineers, the prototype used two peltier coolers which “take advantage” of the “thermoelectric effect”, which turns a voltage difference into a temperature difference.
Controllers like these could be considered a product of psychophysics. And, if this job posting is any indication, they are just the start of what Facebook is researching.