These University Courses Are Teaching Students the Skills to Work in VR
“I’ve been in VR for a long time,” says Rob Catto. He tells me that back in 1993 he set up a fully immersive VR lab in the high school where he taught, so it’s not surprising that he believes Virtual Reality and teaching are natural bedfellows, nor that he ended up as the Director of Game Studies & Simulation at Full Sail University. “I actually came here to teach a course in VR, but then it sort of went to sleep, until about four years ago when it came back with a bang.”
Full Sail already had a strong Game Development program, he explains, but with the heightened interest and demand for talent from the industry it made sense to create a course geared specifically toward VR and AR. Their newly launched Simulation and Visualization Bachelor’s – which currently has around 30 registered students – is not for the faint-hearted though. It crams a 4-year multidisciplinary curriculum in 20 insanely intensive months.
During that time, the students hone their coding skills (focusing mainly in C Sharp and C++) and get comfortable using engines such as Unity and Unreal. But that’s only the beginning. The course includes a huge variety of modules such as Data Visualization and Modeling, Artificial Intelligence and Applied Human-Computer Interaction, Linear Algebra, Physics, Computer Networks, and even things like “Historical Archetypes and Mythology,” and “English Composition,” which hint that in order to create immersive experiences you should not only understand the technical side of Virtual Reality, but also get to grips with it as a storytelling medium.
With the increase in popularity of VR and demand for skills in the industry we are certain to see a lot more dedicated courses, as well as impressive content produced by students and alumni such as this cool Harry Potter-based AR project by 21-year-old Asad Malik from Bennington College in Nevada.
“As virtual reality moves more towards the mainstream through the development of new, more affordable consumer technologies, a way needs to be found for students to translate what they learn in academic situations into careers within the industry,” says Frankie Cavanagh, a lecturer at Northumbria University. He founded a company called Somniator last year with the aim not only of developing VR games, but to provide a bridge between higher education and the technology sector. Over 70 students from Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Gateshead College in the UK have been placed so far through the program, working on real games as part of their degrees and getting paid for additional work commissioned. This has already produced some impressive results, as can be seen from the early preview of their first VR release, Dimension Hunter.
But what should those shopping around for a VR degree course be looking for? State-of-the art facilities such as those offered at Full Sail’s “FabLab” or the University of Missouri’s iLab – which currently offers Virtual Reality-related modules as part of its IT program – are certainly desirable, but perhaps more important is an institution’s ability to support the student in building an extremely diverse and ever-evolving skillset, as well as encouraging a collaborative mentality.
Working with VR already translates into an extraordinarily diverse range of possible career paths, and those options are only going to become even broader as the industry matures in the next few years.
“Simulation is becoming a bigger part of almost any industry,” agrees Catto. “There’s urban simulation, military, medical, flight, disaster relief, and then gaming and other entertainment. At its heart, simulation is all about problem solving. Its applications extend to nearly every industry—from safer military training to more efficient medical procedures to better designed parking garages.”
One of the reasons Full Sail is located near downtown Orlando is because of its pedigree as “simulation capital of the world” referring to its tradition in providing R&D and talent for the theme park industry as well as the military and space programs. But for students to be able to solve the problems they will encounter in creating such complex simulations, they need to be taught to conceptualize, design, program and make their own stuff. Which makes for a very different sort of learning environment.
“We teach them things such as how to program electronic microcontrollers, then they will work with a solid modeling package in the digital fabrication course. They will use equipment such as the injection molder, a laser cutter, and the milling machine where they will make their own circuit board – which of course they will then program themselves,” explains Catto.
He shows me a 3D-printed box: “This will ultimately be a scent deliverer that will be controlled by a virtual environment. It is easy to focus on the visual aspect of VR, but it’s about much more than just putting on the headset, it’s about all the senses, and what we’re enabling here is rapid prototyping to deliver that.”
Next up he invites me to test-drive one of his own prototype projects – a machine that simulates the experience of Catto’s real-life hobby of powered paragliding. For those not familiar with this activity, it essentially involves a heady mix of flying and parachuting, with a propeller strapped to one’s back as you fly in a suspended harness connected to a wing resembling a parachute. It’s just as much crazy fun as it sounds – especially when you’re doing it in Virtual Reality and add some random missile shooting for extra kicks.
As my ride in the Virtual Foot Flyer proves, the point of all those hours spent learning and building is that they ultimately produce awesome experiences. Which is why they get students building stuff pretty much from the get-go, and the result of one of those assignments is moving hypnotically on the palm of Catto’s hand as we speak. It’s a miniature version of a Stewart platform, built from scratch. This is a robotic motion device that provides six degrees of freedom for any object resting on its surface – basically what flight simulators theme park rides sit on top of. Once they master that, students then have the chance to upscale their designs, so that one could recreate, for example, the Speeder Bike chase in Star Wars using a combination of VR, simulation mechanics, and custom-made printing and prototyping. You could even build a custom headset that looked like a biker scout helmet, why not? Well, Catto tells me with a grin, that’s actually something they’re working on at the moment. Perhaps next time I visit I could try that demo.
Virtual Reality entered the marketplace for consumers in 2013 with the launch of the Oculus Rift Development Kit. 2016 brought consumers a variety of new VR devices, including the HTC Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR. Based on the demand the VR market has been seeing over the years, it is expected to grow by the billions by 2020, reaching an estimated $30 billion in worth. When combined with the Augmented Reality market, revenue between the two could reach $150 billion. Today, many industries are beginning to implement Virtual Reality into businesses. In the healthcare field, a VR experience called “Snow World” to help burn victims during their wound care and rehabilitation process. In journalism, news and media companies are adding 360 videos to their online publications to add to their stories. And in entertainment, movies including Star Wars, Jurassic World, and more have released VR experiences to go along with the movie. Adding this component generates more interest, excitement, and a strong brand association.
With the VR industry continuing to expand, new career opportunities are expected to open up to fulfill the demand. Potential positions for job-seekers may include UX/UI Designers, Unity Developers, 3-D Modelers, Animators, Project Managers, and Videographers. For those who are interested in pursuing a career in the industry, it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest VR trends—follow social media conversations, attend webinars and conferences, and participate in online communities. In an industry that expects to sell 500 million VR headsets in less than 10 years, the Virtual Reality industry appears to have a very promising future ahead of it.
Below is the full infographic by Context:
You may not think you’re at risk of a cyber-attack, but in today’s digital world, it’s a huge problem. Hackers can learn anything about you by stealing data, such as social security numbers, computer passwords, credit card information, health care data, bank account information, and more. According to an IBM study, as reported by CBS, approximately 1.5 million cyber-attacks occur annually. That’s three attacks per minute!
Businesses are at a huge risk of attack. If a hacker can get ahold of their customer data files, they can easily get their hands on hundreds or thousands of people’s data in one go. Depending on the data they’ve stolen, they can use the information to steal identities, access personal finance accounts, get ahold of trade secrets, and more. Despite 32 percent of organizations being affected by cybercrime, almost half don’t think they need an incident response plan in place according to PwC. That’s because many of them-44 percent according to UK research—don’t believe they’ll be targeted.
Anyone, whether they’re an individual or a business organization, is at risk of becoming victim to a cyber-attack. These attacks work in many ways. Hackers can get ahold of your information through computer viruses, phishing scams, denial-of-service attacks, and even in-person scams where hackers access your on-site computer or company servers. All of these methods can be used to target a large company or a single individuals.
What’s even more frightening is that cybercrime is on the rise. The global cost of cybercrime was around $500 billion in 2015. That figure is expected to rise to $2 trillion by 2019, says Juniper Research. The average cost of a single data breech will hit $150 million by 2020.
If you don’t think you’re at risk of a cyber-attack, think again. Some of the biggest companies with the largest set of resources have been hit hard by cyber criminals. The infographic below highlights the top 10 cybercrimes and data breaches that have been reported to date, chosen based on either size or significance. These attacks include everything from stealing credit card data to social security numbers, birthdates, health data, and more from big companies like Yahoo, Home Depot, Google, and even government agencies like the IRS. It just goes to show that anyone holding sensitive customer data is at risk and that it takes very careful measures to mitigate your risk of a breech.
Get the details of these top 10 massive breaches below. This infographic is made by TheBestVPN.com team.
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