Kitt Phi

Kitt is a senior at NMSU majoring in Computer Science with a focus on Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and Artificial Intelligence. His passion is to develop training simulations in an AR/VR environments for students and professionals. These simulations will be designed to assist and improve a persons’ working knowledge and experience in their field.  Kitt is currently undertaking his own research project as part of the Discovery Scholars Program, and he is also a professional programmer, helping to create virtual environments for the upcoming Addison Care Virtual and Augmented Reality Laboratory.


Project Description:

Title: Simulating an open terrain visual search environment in three-dimensional virtual reality

 Project Description: Our primary goal is to create a 3D simulation that will allow for the observation of behavioral and search patterns of observers conducting an open terrain, search and rescue (SAR) “clue finding” task.  Conducting empirical investigations of SAR performance in the real world can be very costly (e.g., transportation of participants, rigorous and well-controlled staging of scenarios) and at times can even put participants in unnecessary risk by virtue of environmental circumstances.  Moreover, manipulation of the environment and precise measurement of behavioral responses are difficult to do outside of the lab.  By contrast, conducting simulated SAR scenarios in a well-rendered 3D virtual environment can be cost-effective, efficient, safe for all involved, and can allow researchers to systematically manipulate the environment and collect precise measurements of performance. This project aims to first recreate an ongoing open terrain “clue finding” task in a virtual environment.  Our goal is then to compare and contrast the behavior and performance of searchers in the ongoing real-world task (being conducted concurrently in Dr. Hout’s Vision Sciences and Memory Laboratory) to that of searchers in our simulated version of the same task.  If we are able to recreate basic patterns in the data (when observed in the lab), it will provide a proof of concept that conducting SAR research in a virtual world is effective and prudent.



  • Project description, timeline, and milestones developed with mentor; on file with DSP
  • Complete half of project milestones
  • Complete project
  • Present scholarly work at URCAS
  • Attend a professional conference (without presenting)
  • Present scholarly work at conference, exhibition, recital, film festival, reading, etc.
  • Author or co-author a manuscript submitted for publication
  • Attend workshop on applying for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program

Completed benchmarks listed in italics


Kitt’s mentor: Dr. Michael C. Hout:

Michael C. Hout grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Pittsburgh for his bachelor’s degree before moving to Tempe, Arizona to get a master’s and PhD at Arizona State University.  He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at New Mexico State University, and an Associate Editor at the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. His research focuses primarily on visual cognition (including visual search, attention, eye movements, and memory) and the development of alternative methods of collecting similarity data for use in multi-dimensional scaling. He has won several awards for research and teaching, including the Rising Star award from the Association for Psychological Science, and currently engages in outside consulting for organizations such as Major League Baseball. In his limited free time, he enjoys walking his dogs, hiking, playing hockey, and riding his motorcycle.