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BYU's new lab mixes virtual and augmented realities

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In BYU’s new Mixed Reality Lab, students are forging a new frontier of virtual and augmented reality. The lab becomes scattered with robots. Equipped with a headset and a controller, a player is tasked with saving the lab from an invasion. Their reality is mixed with augmented 3D technology.

The Mixed Reality Lab is a new workspace found in the Crabtree Building and is used for the design and prototyping of mixed reality experiences. In the lab, students work with the top augmented and virtual reality technology from around the world.

In an augmented reality experience, digital 3D objects are inserted into the real world. In virtual reality, the environment is completely digital. The lab provides students with the opportunity to work with both.

Currently, students are working on building apps for nurse training in hospital settings, interior design and even escape room games. Students are also working on a grant proposal for a mixed-reality suicide prevention application.

Not every university has a mixed reality lab. In fact, BYU is unique in providing this kind of hands-on experience for students.

“Our lab is marking a very distinct path toward the future that can be found in very few places,” said Brady Redfearn, director of the Mixed Reality Lab.

About 25 students work in the Mixed Reality Lab every semester. The lab brings students together from various majors across campus to create 3D digital design experiences. Professors across campus are interested in working in mixed reality, and the lab acts as a destination for these projects.

“As someone who wants to be a user experience designer, working in this lab has been an exciting challenge,” said Miah Dawes, one of the first students to take a class in the lab. “I love being part of discovering an emerging technology with such great potential to better lives.”

The lab is equipped with specialized computer systems, software products and headsets from different manufacturers.

“I want my students to start thinking about 3D interfaces because this will be the new normal in several years,” said Redfearn. “From a research perspective, we want to figure out how best to design and build user-centered mixed reality experiences.”

The future of all interfaces will involve mixed reality. Examples of this range from head-up displays in cars, virtual reality arcades around the world, mixed reality in theme parks and medical training systems.

“There is great potential for almost any real-life experience to be enhanced with mixed reality,” said Redfearn.

If you’re interested in collaborating on a project with the Mixed Reality Lab contact mrlab@byu.edu. For more information about the lab visit BYUmrlab.com.

By Jayne Edwards, February 19, 2019
Media Contact: Natalie Ipson