Students and faculty across UCF are benefitting from 250 new mixed reality headsets that will be used for applications ranging from developing robotic sensors to designing interactive backgrounds for special events.

The headsets are a gift from General Dynamics Mission Systems and are fully self-contained computers that allow wearers to operate untethered in a hologram-enhanced physical environment. General Dynamics Mission Systems is a provider of mission-critical solutions to defense, civil, intelligence, government and cyber-security customers.

While mixed reality technology is perhaps best known for its use in gaming and interactive entertainment, it has a wide variety of applications in education, training, design, and product prototyping. Merging the real and virtual worlds, mixed reality creates new environments in which users can visualize digital objects in the physical space they choose, allowing them to work in 3D to create, test, and scale designs and programs.

The headsets, which are Microsoft Hololens, are being distributed to the College of Engineering and Computer Science; Rosen College of Hospitality Management; College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL); College of Arts and Humanities; College of Medicine; College of Nursing; College of Community Innovation and Education; Burnett Honors College; and the School of Modeling, Simulation and Training.

The College of Arts and Humanities, which received 51 headsets, offers a theatre MFA with a track in themed experience and launched a new master’s in themed experience for the first time this fall. Courses in the new graduate program teach students a range of skills, including show set design, show writing, production management, and producing for themed experiences, such as theme parks, zoos, museums, retail, exhibitions, immersive hotels, dining, and virtual worlds.

“Mixed and virtual reality are frequently used for the design and simulation of themed environments. Our themed experience graduate students can use the HoloLens systems to see 3D worlds and rapidly prototype their ideas and designs,” says Peter Weishar, director of the UCF themed experience program.We are excited to incorporate this technology into our production pipeline.”

The headsets are being deployed for colleges to implement into classes, labs and other student learning experiences. They could be used in activities like visualizing big data, tracking targets in sensor network testbeds, developing robotics sensors, creating simulated teaching environments for education majors, adding a gamification element to physical therapy training, designing theatrical sets and creating 3D interactive themed environments.

“Given our long-term commitment to the Central Florida region and our deep ties to UCF, General Dynamics Mission Systems is pleased to be able to support UCF’s mission as a leading research university and center of innovation for the region’s economy,” says Roger McNicholas, vice president of General Dynamics Mission Systems’ Orlando facility. “We look forward to seeing how the students at UCF utilize the Hololens headsets in their research.”

The headsets were released commercially in 2016 and retail for $5,000 each.