A Life Less Ordinary

Computer science plays a role just about everything in our lives, from the cars we drive to the movies we watch and the many ways we interact with each other every day. In this timeline, we follow one “human of the future” through childhood, adulthood and into old age via critical moments that could be touched by technology developed at USC Viterbi.

BLAISE INGENIUM ARRIVES in the world on a balmy fall day in Los Angeles. The year is 2030. It’s been 10 years since the world was seized by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity has since innovated, adapted and progressed. Everything feels familiar yet different. In Blaise’s lifetime, self-driving cars will become mainstream, haptic technology will allow us to hug loved ones from afar, and quantum computers will discover new drugs to treat debilitating diseases.

A pregnant woman looks at a smartwatch giving a readout of nearby air quality.
In Utero: Blaise's mother finds out she is pregnant. As she lives in a city with high pollution levels, she uses a wearable device based on Cyrus Shahabi's research to monitor and reduce her exposure to air pollutants that could harm baby Blaise's brain development.
Age 6: Blaise's teacher notices she is having trouble focusing at school. Blaise is referred to a specialist who tracks her eye movements using a tool developed by Laurent Itti that helps doctors reach a diagnosis: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
An eight year-old Blaise looks at a tablet on a desk, with a small bird-like robot beside her.
Age 8: Blaise and her family welcome a new housemate: a personalized learning robot designed by Maja Matarić, Gisele Ragusa and Viterbi student researchers, that she affectionately calls "Lemon". Lemon uses AI to help Blaise focus and learn more, while having fun.
A young Blaise is in the cinema - two “scary” hands appear in front of her.
Age 10: Blaise sees a movie and is blown away by the special effects. The hands, in particular, are hyper-realistic because of technology developed by Jernej Barbic. It kick-starts Blaise's lifelong obsession with visual effects.
College-aged Blaise sits at a laptop with an I Voted sticker.
Age 18: Blaise votes for the first time. New legislation, informed in part by research from Aleksandra Korolova and Yan Liu, ensures that social media content related to the elections is comprehensive and vetted for misinformation in real time.
Age 23: After earning a bachelor's degree in visual effects and computer science from USC Viterbi, Blaise finds her dream job, thanks to smart talent-matching systems based on AI models such as Yan Liu's.
Blaise sits in a self-driving car with a cup of coffee, looking at her phone, with her hands off the wheel
Blaise earns a promotion and makes her first big purchase: an autonomous car. Driverless cars are now safe and mainstream, due in part to methods developed by Jyo Deshmukh to test perception algorithms that allow a car to "understand" what it "sees."
In her car, Blaise tears up while listening to a podcast, smiling.
Age 26: Listening to a podcast in her car, Blaise tears up as the story unfolds. While she may not realize it, the soaring music played a part in her emotional reaction — the podcast’s composer was inspired by Shrikanth Narayanan’s research on music and emotions.
A pregnant Blaise sits with a doctor, who scrolls through an augmented reality screen on the wall
Age 30: Blaise is pregnant. Although the hospital that holds her medical records is targeted by an attempted denial of service attack (DoS), her information — along with hundreds of thousands of other patients’ — is kept safe, thanks to Jelena Mirkovic’s cybersecurity work.
Blaise in her hospital bed looks lovingly at a swaddled baby, with a nurse and doctor at her side
Age 31: Blaise arrives at the hospital to give birth. The nurses who care for her are focused and well- rested, thanks to new protocols put in place as a result of Shrikanth Narayanan's study into hospital workplace stress.
Blaise's baby plays with a toy train while Blaise looks on and a medical professional takes notes
Age 32: Blaise struggles with her son’s autism diagnosis. As a single parent dealing with work stress and financial concerns, she feels worried and depleted. In addition to therapy, she is grateful to have an empathetic chatbot on hand, developed by USC Viterbi computer science alumna 
Shreya Gupta (M.A. '20).
Age 32: Blaise’s young son is diagnosed with autism by looking at his exploratory movements, such as leg kicks. These insights, based on work by Maja Matarić and her students, allow him to receive early intervention.
Blaise reads a book outside her home in a hillside area. Banana trees sit at the base of the nearby hills.
Age 35: Climate change has been accelerating for decades, and now wildfires threaten Blaise’s home at the foothills of the Angeles National Forest. Thanks to Barath Raghavan's banana tree fire buffer orchards, planted in 2021, the embers die out before they can spread to her community.
Age 40: It’s something Blaise had only heard about in history class and from her parents but will now experience firsthand: a new pandemic is spreading rapidly around the world. But this time, it will be controlled more successfully than the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks in part to USC Viterbi researchers’ work in 2020, including contact tracing, modeling spread and estimation of risk.
A fireman flies a drone over Blaise's damaged house.
Age 45: A magnitude 7.4 earthquake hits the Los Angeles region. Many structures and homes are damaged or destroyed, including Blaise’s. Mayank Kejriwal’s urgency detection algorithm helps first responders reach the communities most in need, while Nora Ayanian's invincible drones help assess the damage.
Age 46: The city pulls together after the earthquake. Residents still have access to water thanks to Bistra Dilkina’s work with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, using AI to suggest upgrades to city water pipes where probability of earthquake damage is highest.
Blaise hugs a  digital avatar of her son using haptic technology.
Age 50: Blaise’s son moves across 
the country, but she can still “hug” him using haptic technology developed by Heather Culberston.
Age 68: Blaise notices she is having difficulty finding the right words and keeps misplacing things around the house. She receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis while the disease is in its early stages, thanks to a machine learning method developed by Greg Ver Steeg that identified blood-based markers of the disease.
Age 69:Blaise’s Alzheimer’s progression is slowed by a drug that was discovered using quantum computing machines like the D-Wave at USC Viterbi’s Information Sciences Institute.
An older Blaise sits on the sofa reading while a robot cleans around her.
Age 75: Blaise has arthritis and mobility issues. She is grateful for her household robot that helps with chores. The robot learned how to sweep the floor, vacuum and dust by watching video demonstrations, using technology developed by Stefanos 
With his parents at his side, a Blaise's grandson reaches out towards an avatar of his grandmother.
Age 83: For Blaise, the timeline stops here. She may have died, but future generations will be able to interact with her 3-D, virtual avatar, based on hundreds of pre-recorded video conversations. The technology, developed by USC computer scientists Paul Debevec, David Traum and Anton Leuski in collaboration with the USC Shoah Foundation, is now mainstream and allows people to learn more about their ancestors.