As someone who works with virtual reality and simulations all the time, Jesse Schell often gets tapped about modern day video games.
But talking about the design of the universe is a bit different.
Carnegie Mellon University professor and author, Schell will be featured on an episode of The Science Channel’s “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman” that asks the question, “Do we live in a matrix?” It airs at 10 p.m. on May 20.
In its sixth season, the show asks thought-provoking questions and explores the mysteries of existence, some hotly debated.
“Each week we ask questions that challenge our way of thinking and take a deeper look at the science behind some of society’s most divisive topics,” says Rita Mullin, general manager of Science Channel.
The episode in which Schell appears examines the possibility of whether or not an advanced civilization designed our universe and the glitches in the laws of the universe that may uncover a hidden code.
“One of the things I can’t help but notice is that the limits that we run into in simulation – the limits of resolution, limits of information transmission – are very similar to the limits that our universe has,” says Schell, professor at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center and CEO of game design and development studio Schell Games.
“The questions of the limits of the universe and whether the universe is simulations or not has interested me a great deal so when they contacted me about being on the show I was definitely very interested,” he says.
Before spending seven years creating simulations at Disney’s Virtual Reality studio, Schell did graduate work in virtual reality at CMU. He’s been back in town for the last 13 years, teaching classes on building virtual worlds and game design at the ETC and also running Schell Games, one of the largest independent game studios in the country. The company has designed interactive experiences like the award-winning Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Toy Story Mania, Race for the Beach and more for clients like Walt Disney Imagineering, Sony, Yale University and Microsoft.
So what’s on the horizon for Schell and his company?
“We’re very focused on educational games and simulations. We are getting more and more into virtual reality. That’s why it was really exciting to do this episode. I really feel like as a culture we’re kind of on the cusp of a new understanding about simulation,” he says.
And with several new virtual reality systems from Sony, Facebook and Valve due to launch in 2016, he says the concept is becoming increasingly popular.
“It’s exciting because these systems are really just like what we’re talking about in the show – the question of ‘is this universe an illusion and is there really something more complicated behind it,’” he says.
And to those who say that idea is far-fetched?
“I would love to see their evidence. If they have a clear plan for what the universe is and where it came from and what makes it go, I would love to know about it,” he says.