Getting Real — Drexel Opens Lab to Study Virtual, Augmented and Immersive Reality Technology
January 28, 2019
A custom-built motion capture platform, using a cycle form factor, interfaces with a motion capture system in the Immersive Research Lab, enabling students to build a variety immersive reality and gaming experiences.
At the convergence of visual arts and computer technology, virtual and augmented reality have grown from a novelty of movies and video games into a tool that’s opening new opportunities for study and exploration. Experts in Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design are creating a new generation of the technology to and with the opening of its Immersive Research Lab, they will be working with students and researchers from around the University to push its application into new spaces.
“This is the first space on campus dedicated to the study and development of immersive media and virtual and augmented reality,” said Nick Jushchyshyn, an assistant professor in Westphal College and director of the lab. “With a concentration of the latest AR/VR technologies and creative minds from around campus, we see this as a resource that will expose all Drexel students to the latest visualization technology, while the next generation is being created by students in the lab.”
The 550-square-foot, glass-enclosed lab, which is centrally located in Westphal’s URBN Center will feature the latest computer technology, including HP-ZVR Backpack Workstations, as well as cutting-edge virtual and augmented reality devices from Oculus Go, HTC VIVE and Microsoft HoloLens headsets to Leap Motion hand-tracking and iClone Facial motion capture systems, as well as a full motion capture studio equipped with OptiTrak and Vicon motion capture devices.
A number of new technologies have already been developed for the lab by Juschyschyn and his collaborators, including 360-degree virtual reality cameras, a custom virtual reality cycle platform and an x-wing fighter cockpit platform.
To display the student work, the lab includes three screening rooms, stereo and mono display screens, an Ambisonic sound system and a 16-foot diameter domed projection screen.
“If you have even the smallest inkling of an idea that involves immersive media and AR/VR, this lab will give you the tools and expertise to explore it and test it out, including computers, headsets, motion capture, custom immersive camera systems, motion platforms and even holographic displays. The lab is also just steps away from our maker lab, fashion design department and large motion capture and green screen studios, which has already inspired a number of collaborative projects.”
Jushchyshyn has supported a wide variety of interdisciplinary projects as a professor in Westphal’s Digital Media program and director of its programs in animation and visual effects, immersive media and the Animation, Capture & Effects Lab. Many of them, including collaborations with the Academy of Natural Sciences to produce a 360 virtual reality dinosaur experience; an immersive projection display of items from Drexel’s Fox Historic Costume Collection; and an augmented reality exhibition created with an organist at the Curtis Center, will continue as the Immersive Research Lab evolves.
In addition, Jushchyshyn, whose industry experience includes work on visually striking films such as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Last Air Bender,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” is also building a BS program in virtual reality and immersive media that will enroll its first students in the fall of 2019. His goal is to expose students to the latest virtual and augmented reality technology and software and work with industry developers and alumni in the field to deploy their talents through Drexel’s co-op program.
“While we are preparing students to make their mark in a field that is in a constant state of motion, one thing is for certain — this technology, which allows us to experience our world, and others, in new and exciting ways, is the new reality.”
For more information about the Immersive Research Lab, visit: http://digm.drexel.edu/acelab/irl-launch/