Five Computer Engineering student teams from CMPE 297 gathered in the College of Engineering’s Showcase & Collaboration Lab for “Demo Day,” toward the end of Fall 2017 semester. Prepared with posters, presentations, and all of the standard Virtual Reality (VR) equipment needed for a subsequent demonstration of their intricate applications, they were ready to reveal their semester-long VR/AR (augmented reality) projects.
The event piqued the interest of several industry partner executives; program directors from Google, Microsoft, Stanford Research Institute International, and Xulu Entertainment were in attendance. Gaining industry attention and resources is a goal to which Robert Bruce, professor of CMPE 297 and head of the College’s VR Lab, dedicates much of his time. He can often be found spreading the word about VR events, applying for grants for his students, and supporting them as they navigate their projects.
“I believe such projects are necessary for an appealing portfolio,” says Bruce. “This will help these students be competitive and stand out when applying for jobs. I’m very proud of all of their accomplishments.”
The projects ranged from light-hearted applications to more serious strategy games, but all shared the look, feel, and creativity of a professional game that one could readily purchase online. This included “CoolPets,” a virtual pet application that enables users to tend to their very own virtual pet. The pixelated animal of one’s choice is even voice-responsive and can be taught tricks.
“I’m unable to have pets because I travel so much and it can get lonely. So I thought of an app that lets you have a pet in your back pocket,” said Joy Yan, the team’s leader.
Similarly, the students behind “Strategeality” were inspired by a gap they saw in the gaming industry. “We wanted something strategic and challenging, which is hard to find in the current app market. The game is a simulated-war game that lets the user command a whole army of their own!” explained Arthur Baney, another team leader.
Though all projects presented during this Demo Day were video games, other ongoing VR lab applications have aimed to integrate VR/AR into the classroom. Ian Hunter’s Virtual Chemistry Lab, for example, takes hands-on learning to a new level; the app features an interactive periodic table in which the user can “grab” molecules and visualize chemical reactions.
Currently, a team of students is working on a VR application that contains three-dimensional scans of various specimens kept in SJSU’s Science Education Resource Center, allowing students to study these stores remotely. Others are working on a lab safety VR application, a Cube Satellite meant for Low Earth orbit, and a haptic feedback chair for a more immersive VR experience.
“The biggest project right now is the Cube Satellite Project,” said Bruce. “I'm working with Dr. Papadopoulos from Aerospace Engineering, Marcus Murbach from NASA Ames Research Center, Nanci Solomon from Xulu Entertainment, and several computer engineering and aerospace graduate students. We are tentatively set to launch our satellite in July 2018. We will be recording stereoscopic video as our satellite is released from the International Space Station. It'll be a very proud moment for us at SJSU!”
Expect another Demo Day at the end of Fall 2018 semester.