The new center will explore how MIT can use virtual reality and artificial intelligence and other technologies to better serve human needs.
Virtual reality (VR) technologies are having a growing impact on people’s everyday lives. Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning, and D. Fox Harrell, a professor of digital media and artificial intelligence in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Program and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, have combined their efforts to launch MIT Open Learning’s new initiative, the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality. The new initiative will help determine how MIT can use a group of technologies including virtual and mixed reality (collectively called extended reality or XR) to better serve human needs through artful innovation of virtual experiences, on-campus and beyond.
Harrell’s research explores the relationship between imaginative cognition and computation and involves developing new forms of computational narrative, gaming, social media, and related digital media based in computer science, cognitive science, and digital media arts. Harrell announced the center’s creation in his remarks at this month’s “Human-Computer Interaction Salon and Mixer,” as part of the Computational Cultures Initiative, sponsored by the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
“The center’s mission is to pioneer innovative experiences using technologies of virtuality,” Harrell said. “Such technologies, ranging from Virtual Reality (VR) to Mixed Reality (MR) and beyond, all use computing to construct imaginative experiences atop our physical world. We endeavor to design and understand how these systems impact how we now communicate, express, learn, play, and work.”
The center — “MIT Virtuality” for short — will bring faculty, researchers, and VR professionals together to create new models for the deployment of impactful XR learning. The center will focus on creation, research, and innovation, through its Studio, Lab, Salon, and Hub functionalities.
The Studio, Harrell explained, will bring professionals and faculty together to innovate new uses for XR, while the Lab will investigate the impacts of these technologies, focusing on learning, simulation and cognition. The Salon and Hub will focus on capacity building and resource sharing, pairing students and experts with resources that will help expand VR technologies across MIT.