Husson University will receive $2.2 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation to train more students in extended reality technologies that allow people to mix reality with virtual experiences for training and various other purposes.
The School of Technology and Innovation’s iEX Center, which is located at Husson’s College of Business, will receive the grant as part of an effort to educate students and meet a growing need for knowledgeable workers. emerging technologies.
Extended Reality is an umbrella term that refers to three-dimensional computing environments that allow users to interact with their surroundings using immersive devices such as virtual reality goggles or that superimpose artificial realities onto their real environment at using devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.
The Pokémon Go mobile game used augmented reality technology to allow users to “catch” digital cartoon monsters using their real-time locations and physical surroundings.
Social media giant Meta sells a virtual headset, the Oculus Quest, which uses a display screen, sensors, handheld controllers and sound to allow the user to engage in real-life gaming environments. virtual and to block its real environment.
Husson is a of only a some universities in the United States which offers a degree in extended reality. Husson’s iEX Center, located in Harold Alfond Hall on the university’s Bangor campus, began allowing students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in extended reality last fall.
The iEX Center will use the foundation grant to hire more staff, purchase equipment and continue to excel as New England’s leading extended reality institute, said Brave Williams, associate professor and director of the iEX Center.
iEX Center students built a three-dimensional virtual courtroom to simulate a mock trial and are developing a project that would allow hospitality students to simulate the experience of serving customers at Geaghan’s Pub in Bangor, Williams said.
Students at the iEX center took three-dimensional scans and 360-degree videos of Geaghan’s interior to allow hospitality students to learn how to serve food and perform other transactions in a virtual environment.
“As people work in [virtual reality] environments, they learn much faster because they have the information they need in the context they need,” Williams said. “It’s presented in the way they need in the environment, which they need. And they are able to interact with it more intuitively.
Another iEX Center project has students design an augmented reality app that allows set designers to see their work brought to the stage at Husson’s Gracie Theatre, he said.
A handful of movie and TV shows, like “The Mandalorian”, use extended reality technology in their productions to project an animated image of what the show’s set should look like while the actors are onscreen, Williams said.
He predicted that an endless number of industries, such as healthcare, military, marketing and architecture, will increasingly use this technology to allow workers to work remotely while attending conferences. telephone calls with their distant colleagues, by organizing training sessions or by simulating surgical procedures. and military exercises.
“It’s almost like asking, ‘Which industries will benefit the most from using a computer?’ “, did he declare.
Maine has a critical need for technology-savvy business students and information technology professionals who are familiar with both virtual and augmented reality, said Husson University President Dr. Robert Clark.
“Creating a high-tech workforce has the potential to transform Maine’s economic landscape and attract high-paying high-tech businesses and jobs to the region,” Clark said.
The Alfond Foundation, Maine’s largest philanthropy, is a major donor to Maine colleges and universities. Harold Alfond Hall, which Husson opened last year, is the result of a $4 million donation from the foundation, which was Husson’s largest ever when he announced it in 2017.
The foundation announced a $240 million gift to the University of Maine system in 2020, funding a new statewide engineering school, new sports facilities at UMaine in Orono and d other initiatives.
This was the largest donation to a public institution of higher learning in New England.