Summ-AR Immersion

Using Emerging Tech, Students Create Innovative Art, Interactive Games in Incubator Program
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Deep in the maze-like white corridors of the A.V. Williams Building, gentle tides wash up driftwood and crab shells; oppressed workers rise up against a surveillance state; and aspiring pop stars perfect their recordings in a studio.

“This is pretty sick,” said Marilyn Ortega ’24—in the best sense of the word, of course—as she offered feedback to peers presenting their art installations and interactive games.

They weren’t being created for a class or for an internship but for the Immersive Media Design (IMD) program’s New Works Incubator, an eight-week summer program that gives any University of Maryland student a chance to try out emerging technologies and develop unique, offbeat projects.

“Students really take the opportunity and run with it,” said IMD lecturer Jonathan David Martin, who developed the incubator in 2021.

IMD, a major that debuted the previous fall and now has 122 students, encompasses augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), motion capture, 3D scanning, audio and video editing, and more. All have creative and real-world applications, such as immersive video games or simulated surgeries for physician training.

“A lot of classes don’t have time to focus in on how all of this tech works, so we’re able to go a little deeper with equipment or software over the summer,” said IMD Lab Manager Ian McDermott, who led the program this year.

The incubator draws students from across campus, though most are computer science and art majors. They attend two workshops per week on different tech topics in June, then work on their projects and get peers’ and mentors’ feedback throughout July, culminating with a presentation at the end of the month. In the fall, some are invited to showcase their work at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s NextNOW Fest.

- Story by Karen Shi, Maryland Today

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