November 13 – 17 is National Education Week in the US. To celebrate, we’re highlighting the intersections of VR and education with a series of blog posts. In Part 1, we dive into the latest news from Oculus NextGen.
At OC3, we announced Oculus NextGen, a pilot program designed to provide colleges and universities with Unity workshops, hardware, and exposure to the VR industry. Today, we’re excited to share that Oculus Head of Development Engineering for Mobile Chris Pruett will deliver our first Oculus NextGen guest lecture livestream, covering design best practices, motion controls, and tips and tools to maximize framerate. Tune into our Facebook page today at 11:00 am PT to join the presentation live!
Since kicking off Oculus NextGen in 2016, we’ve partnered with AMD, Samsung, Unity, and Unreal to donate hundreds of Rifts, PCs, Gear VRs, phones, and licenses to 44 institutions, spanning departments in Film, Animation, and Games to Comparative Media Studies, Architecture, Performance Arts, and beyond. We’ve also paired industry professionals with select university programs for a customized lecture, and now, we’re expanding our reach with Facebook Live.
We’ll host an onsite symposium at Oculus Headquarters in 2018, so that exemplary students in the program can share their projects with each other and get personalized feedback from the Oculus team.
“NextGen is an important program at Oculus because it’s one way for us to get a pulse on how students are thinking about VR,” says NextGen Program Manager Christina Tanouye. “They bring a fresh and diverse perspective that’s very different from industry professionals—they’re able to take big risks to push the boundaries for content development. We’ve already seen them create interesting tools, new interactivity prototypes, and unique narratives, with many of these experiments being produced in a single term or less. We hope this program helps address barriers of entry to VR and creates a sense of community between universities that are working in VR.”
Check out some of the projects to come out of Oculus NextGen thus far:
At Carnegie Mellon University, students working under the instruction of Erin John-Hoffman and Carl Rosendahl in the Entertainment Technology Center program have the potential to spend a semester at Electronic Arts, working in small teams to design and build interactive projects. A recent noteworthy VR project is Left Unsaid, an audio-narrative exploration game in which the player pieces together the past in an attempt to reconcile two family members.
Drawing inspiration from walking sims like Gone Home and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Left Unsaid leverages unique audio mechanics to imbue player actions with meaning and increase the game’s emotional resonance.
Thanks to the efforts of School of Filmmaking Dean Susan Ruskin, University of North Caroline School of the Arts filmmakers teamed up with guest artists Jacquie Barnbrook and Eric Haan to produce DecipHER, a VR television pilot that incorporates dance and choreography reimagined for a 360° experience.
Additionally, University of North Carolina School of the Arts recently received a $10M anonymous gift, which will be used to establish the Institute for Performance Innovation, create a groundbreaking graduate Animatronics program in the School of Design and Production, and advance the School of Filmmaking’s Gaming and Virtual Reality graduate program.
“We are not just teaching our students how to use current technology, because that will change tomorrow,” notes Ruskin. “We are teaching them how to be technologically nimble. They will master the next generation of virtual reality tools and will be the industry leaders in the years to come.”
Luisa Caldas, professor of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, has founded a VR/AR laboratory and created an elective course for graduate students at the College of Environmental Design to explore architectural implications within VR. Last semester, this group pushed the bounds of reality by creating spaces and architecture only possible in a virtual world, like an experience called Collapsetopia where everyday objects are exploded into individual building components that you can use to create a new building structure.
We’re also working with Georgia Tech’s Prototyping eNarrative Lab, led by media scholar and Hamlet on the Holodeck author Janet Murray, which applies the principles of both information and interaction design to the field of digital storytelling in order to create more expressive, complex narratives. Click here to learn more about PeN Lab’s VR prototypes.
Those are just some of the results we’ve seen from Oculus NextGen, and we can’t wait to share even more updates in the future. In the meantime, we hope you’ll join us for Chris Pruett’s guest lecture today at 11:00 am PT.
“VR is such a powerful medium within education because it has the ability to break down both physical and economical barriers, providing students a front-row seat to experiences they may not have had otherwise,” says Program Coordinator Lauren Johnson. “We continue to see new ground being broken in VR course integrations, but what’s most impressive to me is the unique handshake it’s created across disciplines. VR is an impressive tool in collaborative work, bringing together various departments within schools and even bonding universities across state lines. I’m excited about the communities that VR is building within education and the gaps it’s bridging to make a breadth of experiences more accessible.”
Stay tuned to the blog as our National Education Week coverage continues this week!
— The Oculus Team