A Whole New Virtual World at the NeXReality Lab

The NeXReality Lab at Sacred Heart University’s West Campus offers opportunities for students and faculty to get hands-on experience with virtual reality (VR), extendedww reality (XR), and augmented reality (AR).

The lab is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, Monday through Friday, where students can utilize the lab’s resources for projects and research.

Prof. Shanshan Wang is the director of the NeXReality Lab, and assistant professor of the Immersive Media and Mixed Reality (IMMR) program at SHU. “The lab serves as a production hub for students in the IMMR and Game Design programs who are working on VR/AR/XR development. Students learn game design principles, mechanics, and techniques specific to immersive technologies,” said Wang.

The lab also gives students the resources to engage in 3D scanning and printing. By utilizing the lab’s equipment, students get hands-on experience regarding the techniques and overall process of printing and scanning.

“The lab provides resources for students to learn and practice 3D scanning and printing techniques. They can capture real-world objects and environments, manipulate, and modify 3D models, and create physical prototypes using 3D printers,” said Wang.

The NeXReality Lab gave senior Devin O’Connell, a previous intern of the lab, numerous opportunities. One of O’Connell’s previous projects gave him the chance to construct a three-dimensional replica of the classroom to be transformed into a home screen of a VR headset in the lab.

“There are benefits to learning the technology and equipment at the lab,” said O’Connell. “By using it, it increases your creativity and innovation including creating immersive experiences and designing virtual objects and creating those interactive elements when using these systems.”

The lab is most commonly utilized by students within the computer science, media, and game design majors, although the lab is available to a variety of programs at SHU.

“Game design, media, and computer science students tend to go but it can definitely be used for architectural degrees, the medical field, and engineering. Hopefully, it can branch off into different majors. I think that’s the goal they’re looking for eventually,” said O’Connell.

Sophomore Isabella Zalescik is currently in Prof. Wang’s immersive media production course and has gained experience in the lab. She has gained experience with the lab’s resources and has created an environment where she and other students can acquire the necessary skills to navigate the latest technological advancements.

“Students can learn how to use the new technology that is becoming more present in our day to day lives. It’s extremely cool what VR can do and how we experience it, and to have it here on campus is really cool,” said Zalescik.

The equipment in the NeXReality Lab is not limited to only educational purposes. Its diverse use can allow students to engage in VR for entertainment and gaming purposes as well.

“The lab has VR sets, controls, and special computers for students to use and play VR games on. The class I’m in is surrounded by experiencing VR and making some VR videos,” said Zalescik.

The NeXReality lab of Sacred Heart University promotes innovative research and learning, where faculty and staff are able to utilize the equipment of the lab. The lab is located at West Campus W248-249, and for questions about the lab, email NeXReality_Lab@sacredheart.edu.

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