Science Cafe Presentation

By Haley Kolb:

On Wednesday February 15th; GRID Lab Director John Bowditch, 360 Storytelling Specialist Eric Williams, and Audio Production Specialist Josh Antonuccio, presented at The Front Room’s “Science Cafe.” The night’s topic was virtual reality as the newest “disruptive technology,” and the main talking points focused on different immersive elements.

Bowditch opened with introductions of the Immersive Media Initiative team and an explanation of what disruptive technology is. It is loosely defined as something that changes the industry, or even creates a new industry altogether. Air conditioning can be a simple example of this. Many people aren’t aware that virtual reality stemmed out of the 1960s, and NASA’s interest in the tech began in the 80s. The first VR headset was $25,000 and had a while to go before it became a disruptive technology. The first real promise of VR came from The Matrix, which helped people reimagine virtual reality. Nowadays, “Many people believe that VR is here to stay,” says Bowditch. A student IMI employee, Andrea Swart, then presented a demonstration of the Microsoft Hololens, an augmented reality device.

Bowditch gave insight on the GRID Lab’s current projects and how students and faculty can get involved. There is a new class offering, COMM 1200, where students can learn the basics of immersive technology in order to apply the knowledge for later classes. Applications for jobs at the GRID Lab will be opening in March for anyone interested in working with VR and immersive technology. A mentorship program will also be put into place in the fall. For virtual reality classes, two tracks, production-based and conceptual, will be open for students in the fall as well. There will be options for undergraduates (Fall 2017) and graduate students (Spring 2018).

The mic was then handed over to Eric Williams, a Media professor and 360 Storytelling Specialist, who described the future of 360 immersive technology. Currently, the biggest uses for 360 storytelling come from the medical and educational fields. IMI is working on a project with hospitals across the state, and even in Arizona, to create a library of virtual reality videos in which medical students can practice their clinical rotations. “You are learning how to deal with intense situations,” says Williams on the topic of VR medical procedures. It is “preality,” a highly accurate preparation for real-life situations. There is high demand for 360 in journalism and music as well because they are both competitive storytelling industries. Williams wrapped up his portion with 360 projects that are ongoing at the GRID Lab, including an upcoming dive at the Columbus Aquarium.

Audio Specialist Josh Antonuccio was last to speak at the event. His presentation illuminated the importance of 360 immersive audio in the virtual reality realm. “My professor used to tell us that video without audio is just surveillance,” said Antonuccio. Audio will continue to make VR believable, and everyone is on the same playing field when it comes to figuring out the best ways to utilize this technology. Antonuccio explained how he and his audio team shot Courtney Barnett’s set at Nelsonville Music Festival over the summer, and how immensely the growth of 360 demand at large music festivals is becoming. 360 audio is the next step to making the user believe they are truly somewhere else when they put on the headset. Antonuccio will continue to travel to conferences across the country to seek out the best audio technology to bring to Ohio University. “It is an exciting time to learn about [VR], and OU is on the cutting edge of it,” he says. The three all agree that students are the ones shaping this field and are encouraged to further their knowledge of virtual reality.

You can watch the presentation here