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Immersive Media Meets Experiential Learning in Extended Reality Research

Students and faculty explore the potential of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

Professor Makana Chock looks on as two students prepare to use a virtual reality system
In the Media Interface and Networking Design (M.I.N.D) Lab, Professor Makana Chock (right) looks on as media studies graduate students prepare to use a virtual reality system.

Syracuse University students and faculty are exploring ways extended reality technologies can make a positive impact in the world. Extended reality—encompassing virtual reality (VR), augmented reality and mixed reality—allows users to interact with computer-generated simulations in a nearly true-to-life manner, or present computer-generated effects in a real-world setting. “This is a new medium,” says Dan Pacheco, Peter A. Horvitz Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation at the  S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications . “We’re at a point now where every serious media company is doing something in this area.” Pacheco’s students have produced stories using emerging media technologies on topics ranging from dinosaur extinction to color blindness.

At Syracuse University, students and faculty are experimenting with the technology’s potential. In the technology lab NEXIS (New Explorations in Information and Science) at the School of Information Studies , students work on their own innovations with the new medium; in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, students and faculty use VR visualization of data to enhance learning; and in the collaborative setting of the Interactive Design and Visualization Lab at the SyracuseCoE (the Syracuse Center of Excellence) , students explore the potential impact of extended reality on design. “We can test design ideas four-dimensionally and through first-person perspectives,” says School of Architecture Professor Bess Krietemeyer. “For example, by providing a user-driven, walk-through experience of an interior space, while simultaneously mapping its ambient thermal energy flows, we can better understand how a space functions and feels at the same time.”

Syracuse University is at the forefront of understanding how to responsibly manage the power of immersive media, as well. Makana Chock, the David J. Levidow Professor in Newhouse and an expert in media psychology, studies the impact of virtual and augmented reality stories on the human brain, exploring how this new medium might affect individuals’ perspectives and social attitudes. She asserts the University is the ideal place to ask these kinds of questions. “We have student storytellers creating content, we have faculty studying the effects of the content, we have the Media Interface and Networking Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab, where we can measure these things in real time, and we have industry connections to get the information into the field,” she says.

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