Edge of Innovation

Jim Parsons Talks Tech

Jim Parsons, star of the CBS TV comedy “The Big Bang Theory,” isn’t a theoretical physicist in real life, but he is unmistakably charming and thoughtful.

He recently spent several days in Los Angeles shooting a series of ads for Intel RealSense, a 3D-camera technology that brings human-like vision to personal computers.

He arrived at the set after spending time on his own playing around with the technology. In between acting in scenes and posing for 50 of the most awkward driver’s license photos ever, he sat down for a brief interview with iQ.


Here’s a slightly-edited transcript of the conversation:

What was your first experience with a computer?

My very first experience with a computer was the Commodore 64. I was in elementary school, and I don’t know why we had it, and I don’t know why I was learning really minor programming skills. You’d do whatever it was to make a dot run around the screen and then repeat itself again and again. It did not lead me to a career in this field, however.


What kind of technology or devices do you have in your life now?

My devices are a laptop, an iPad, my phone, and my Kindle. And see this is where it gets interesting because [technology has] so infiltrated one’s life that I could go and say my DVR and my Sonos system, all the way down to the microwave. I don’t feel very technologically savvy. I’m not a gamer or anything, and yet I have surrendered so many responsibilities of my life to technology, and it’s made a lot of things easier.

Do you feel like you’re someone who appreciates technology?

I’m somebody who takes it for granted. You take advantage of it like you do electricity. It’s there — but hasn’t it always been? — even though I’m very aware that it hasn’t.

I think that goes to good design, too, because the things that I use on a daily basis are so well designed that you don’t have to think about it. It’s not a constant marvel. The marvel is that it’s not worth thinking about. It’s just pressing a button.


What aspects of technology get you excited?

I get excited about anything new, to be honest. And that even goes to things not technology focused. Like a new book, or a new TV show, or a new whatever. I don’t consider myself somebody who completely geeks out on new apparatuses as it were. But at the same time it’s very exciting, and you do want to have your chance to see if this is something you want to take on and use in your life.

You had the opportunity to play around with some of the RealSense technology on set. What do you think of it?

Getting to play around with this technology left me feeling astounded. There’s something so natural about it, in an exciting way. But it’s a little freaky at the same time. Like for the 3D scan, all I had to concentrate on was holding my head in one position and moving left and right. It didn’t even take long, and it didn’t need me to do a whole lot, and bam! It was there.

In one click, [a digital version of my face] was put on this avatar. I don’t happen to play video games, but if I did, I could be me in any video game. It’s just so fun, because for years you’ve been able to use touch screens, but this has an effect of feeling almost like you’re being able to apply more pressure, even though I wasn’t touching anything. The effect seems to go deeper [than just a touch screen experience].


What do you hope to see computers be able to do in your lifetime?

I would like to see it help people live better lives. I would like to see it help people who are hindered in some way, whether it be physically or emotionally or mentally.

I do get the sense that we’re headed there very quickly. I don’t understand exactly how, but to me at least you can sense that, and that’s a beautiful use of technology. That does something wonderful for humanity, more than just showing us where to buy things on Black Friday – not that there’s anything wrong with that … spend, spend, spend!


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