October 17, 2017

UAT Announces the Return of the Virtual Reality Degree

Virtual Reality Degree at University of Advancing Technology

UAT’s Virtual Reality Degree Makes a Comeback 25 Years Later

The world of Virtual Reality (VR) has been around for decades. Over 25 years ago, University of Advancing Technology (UAT) led the country as the first university in the nation to offer a fully accredited degree in Virtual Reality. Having been created in 1991, the initial VR degree offering may have been a bit before its time, but UAT is pleased to announce that the Virtual Reality degree is back and available to students for the 2016 fall semester.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)? Virtual Reality is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. Some examples of Virtual Reality devices include Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both of which can be demonstrated in the New Technologies Lab on UAT’s Tempe campus.

Professor Ben Reichert testing out the HTC Vive in UAT's New Technologies Lab

Professor Ben Reichert testing out the HTC Vive in UAT’s New Technologies Lab

The world of Augmented Reality (AR) is also gaining traction. The Pokémon Go movement quickly introduced the general public to the possibility of adapting AR into their daily lives with the simple concept of collecting cute Pokémon characters that are visually projected in your city surroundings. Pokémon Go is an example of VR using smartphone technology.

According to an article published on Forbes.com in May 2016, VR jobs in mainstream technology are on the rise. In a short period of time, VR has spiked in job postings by companies and job searches from seekers. SmartRecruiters CEO, Jerome Ternynck said, “Virtual reality is becoming one of the new forms of user experience and user interface.” Ternynck believes “people will gradually find ways to leverage VR for business applications,” as well.

Companies listing VR jobs on Indeed.com include the likes of Samsung, Google, IBM, Facebook, Apple and Intel, in search of VR specialists with skills in backend system development, software development, user experience and visual art.

In recent years, VR has found true applications in many industries providing solutions for healthcare, construction and skilled trades, military, law enforcement, government, automotive, education, advertising, space exploration, and entertainment.

UAT Provost Dr. David Bolman said, “VR is also being heavily explored as a form of film storytelling. Using the Unreal Game Engine, UAT’s Digital Video department designed “CrossRealm,” which is a system for filmmakers to preview visual effects in real time. This innovation provides proof of concept in this type of storytelling.”

CrossRealm created b UAT Digital Video

CrossRealm created b UAT Digital Video

Twenty-five years later UAT is excited to return to its roots of leading the way in advancing technology by welcoming the return of its Virtual Reality degree as a bachelor’s degree offering for on-ground students for the 2016 fall semester.

Game Studies Program Champion Derric Clark who remembers UAT’s initial Virtual Reality degree said, “It is exciting to see Virtual Reality technology come full circle. The original VR degree was the predecessor to the degrees in UAT’s Game Studios Suite and now that gaming and other industries are embracing VR, it’s completing the technology circle.

UAT is proud of its history, serving as a leader in technology education for the entire nation. In fact, UAT’s Virtual Reality degree received an award for Best New Program in 1993 by the Career College Association.

In 1996, UAT Virtual Reality students innovated a virtual replica of Bank One Ballpark (currently Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks) using IBM Elysium and Division VR Systems.

Other projects built in early days of UAT’s VR degree-

  • An ancient civilization tour of the pyramids, a virtual world atlas, a molecular modeler, and a human body tour for the Ministry of Education in Egypt.
  • A virtual walkthrough of the current UAT campus was designed on the Superscape Virtual Reality Toolkit before it was built.
  • A virtual cleanroom was created for Motorola to use in its planning stages before the real version was constructed.
  • A Product Applications Lab presentation was created using IBM Elysium for US West (currently known as Century Link).
  • A simulated tour of the Caves of Chauvet.

Virtual Reality education and development has not skipped a beat at UAT.

This fall semester, in addition to the VR degree, a course in programming and developing Augmented Reality apps will be offered by Professor Hue Henry, who specializes in game programming. In fact, many Game Studios students have already completed or plan to develop game simulations for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.


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