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Exploring the X-Reality Center

This post is part of the SMS Advising Series for New Students. All posts are designed and curated to make the lives of newly admitted students much easier. From academic resources to having a social life in NYC, we want to make sure that our students get the best of ALL worlds!

Exploring the X-Reality Center

What is the X-Reality Center? 

The X-Reality Center is a space where New School students can learn about the emerging field of augmented, virtual, and “reality warping” technologies. The “X” in X-Reality acts as a stand in for these different techniques, while leaving room for more discoveries to emerge in the field. 

The center rest on four building blocks: 

  • Immersive Learning: Acting as a resource hub for XR technologies at the university.
  • XReality Labs: Offering space for students to explore what XR technologies have to offer. 
  • Products and Projects: A collaborative environment for students and faculty to develop their own XR projects. 
  • Research: To better understand how XR technology can be utilized in the classroom and in artistic practice. 

In short, the center conducts research, incubates creative projects, and helps students from a variety of fields push the boundaries of their work using this cutting-edge technology.

What Types of Technologies Does the Center Work With?

When many people talk about augmented – or virtual – reality, these terms are often used interchangeably. However, they are actually very different technologies. The XReality center works with four specific fields: virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and 360 technologies. 

  • Virtual reality is an all encompassing experience requiring the use of a headset that surrounds the viewer in a completely virtual environment. 
  • Augmented reality is only partially immersive, overlaying virtual elements in a real-world environment through the use of a device such as a smartphone or tablet. 
  • Mixed reality combines elements of virtual and augmented reality, although, like virtual, it requires a headset while still integrating the real world environment which virtual elements “interact” with to varying degrees. 
  • 360 media encompass both photos and videos captured from a 360 degree perspective, it encloses the viewer within the media and allows the viewer to turn and see different parts of the media. 

Who Works at the X-Reality Center? 

A variety of educators from across the New School work with the center, including filmmaker and School of Media Studies Dean, Vlad Nikolic. The leader of the XReality center, Maya Georgieva, is the co-founder of the website Digital Bodies, focusing on the impact of VR/AR/MR on education; she also gives talks on immersive storytelling at MIT Media Lab, EDUCAUSE, and Fulbright. 

The center also brings together faculty from the Parsons Design & Technology and Media and Design programs such as Kyle Li, Anezka Sebek, and Sven Travis; and working artists such as Daniel Sauter. 

How can I interact with the center while studying online? 

Much of the School of Media Studies curriculum which features virtual and augmented reality have been adapted to the online learning environment, which is how all students will be learning in Fall 2020 to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Augmented reality technology usually requires nothing more than easily downloadable software and a smartphone or tablet, making it perfect for students to explore and utilize while learning from home.

The XReality Center is also holding events through Zoom throughout Fall 2020, such as their weekly meet-ups at 6pm EST on Fridays. The meet-ups connect VR/AR enthusiasts from across the university to talk about XR projects, development workflows, new technology, and the latest news in the XR industry. They will also be offering a variety of workshops and tutorials on how to get the most out of your XR experience.

What projects come out of the center? 

  • VR and Empathy Research: Ph.D. Psychology students Alison Martingano and Evan Henritze from The New School for Social Research conducted research at the X-Reality Center to determine if VR technology can increase empathy and charitable donations towards child refugees. The Ph.D. Students worked with Maya Georgieva, Director, XReality Center to design a set of stimuli using 360 Videos to undertake a VR and empathy research project. The stimuli were developed at the XReality Center and the research study with volunteers also took place in the XR Lab in early Spring 2020.
  • Volunteers Needed for Digital Scene Partner: This project is an interactive drama that explores the potential of Augmented Reality in Theatre created by Tomas Correa, a Class of 2020 graduate from the BFA Drama Program at The College of Performing Arts. In this immersive performance audience members wear the Magic Leap One headset to experience scenes from a variety of different plays where they interact with a digital scene partner. 
  • Exploring Salsa Using AR: Marcos Echeverría Ortiz of the School of Media Studies used mobile AR to educate others on the rich history of Salsa music. The experience envisions AR while  users browse for records in a store. This AR concept allows people to point their phone at a vinyl record and discover interesting facts on that record

The XReality Center offers a broad scope for students to explore and utilize in their work. If you are interested in learning more you can find their website here, or contact xrcenter@newschool.edu. To keep up on the latest you can also follow the center on Twitter @XRealityCenter, or on Instagram as xrealitycenter.

Written and Curated by Daniel Pemberton

Daniel Pemberton is an MA Media Studies student at The New School. He has worked in copywriting, videography, music journalism, and even directed a few short films. His main passion is in research, working at the intersection of digital media, film studies, visual culture, and critical theory. His work has been recognized at numerous conferences across the United States and around the world. He is currently the Graduate Student Advisor with the School of Media Studies. 

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