IMD Students Showcase Immersive Works at NextNOW Fest

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Blurring the boundary between digital and physical art, performance and gaming, students in the University of Maryland’s Immersive Media Design (IMD) program are showcasing their work this week at NextNOW Fest, UMD’s annual multi-medium arts festival.

Called IMD@NextNOW, the showcase will be on display from September 16—17 in the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, and September 18 at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The exhibits are diverse in medium and topic including a horror game in augmented reality (AR), a night food market in virtual reality (VR) and an interactive musical projection.

Participating students were supported by the IMD New Works Incubator, a new summer program that provides students with resources to develop immersive projects for NextNOW. It offers access to labs, faculty, and equipment, as well as the opportunity to receive peer feedback and support throughout the development process.

"It's been really exciting working with students on their immersive digital art projects because there is no template for how a piece should be built or what it should look or feel like,” says Jonathan David Martin, IMD lecturer and Program Manager of the IMD New Works Incubator. “All of the projects they created this summer are novel and boundary-pushing in their own way.” 

For most of the students, IMD@NextNOW is the first time they’re exhibiting an immersive piece to a live audience. 

“This has been an awesome opportunity for us because it’s more high stakes than just putting a project in your portfolio,” says Aishwarya Tare, an information science major with a passion for immersive media. “There is an end goal to present to people and this pressure to make something truly worth experiencing.” 

Tare and IMD major Mahum Qadeer developed “Lonelight,” a 10-minute AR horror game where the user investigates a haunted house. 

“Essentially, the game combines augmented reality, 3D modeling and a lot of Unity software,” says Qadeer. “This project really helped us expand our skills and get comfortable with these types of software while making it fun.” 

Another project, “Within Reality,” is an immersive projection that lets the user select a song and then watch their colorful silhouette dance and spiral out to the beat of the music.

Bringing a night market to life through mixed reality (XR), “the mXRket” includes mini games, dining in VR and gazing at projections of fanciful nighttime views. Go here for more information on the IMD student showcase at NextNOW.

Immersive Media Design is a partnership between the College of Arts and Humanities and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

Story by Maria Herd

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