BU Spark

POV: Exploring the AR/VR Landscape at BU

BU Spark! is a technology incubator and experiential learning lab for computer science and engineering projects. Housed under the Hariri Institute for Computing, BU Spark! aims to empower students to participate in experiential learning and innovation opportunities. 

On October 28, BU Spark!, BU AR/VR Club and Boston University’s Human Resources participated in the Digital Learning & Innovation-sponsored XR InLearning Global Summit, hosted at the George Sherman Union. The event was an opportunity for faculty, staff and industry partners alike to study the intersection of XR in learning and to experience new technologies that are creating captivating experiences. As an interdisciplinary program, BU Spark! is committed to providing experiences for its students that inspire them to explore experiential learning opportunities. The XR InLearning Global Summit was an opportunity to further our program’s work in bridging the gap between higher education and cutting-edge technologies like AR/VR.

At the moment, the challenge is that higher education has a hard time keeping pace with the tech industry. We know that immersive technologies including AR/VR assist academics in applying theoretical concepts to real world ideas. That immersive experience alone helps students connect the dots and imagine the possibilities that technology can provide.

BU Spark! recruits real-world projects to engage students in AR/VR-related projects grounded in experiential learning. Many of our students in our Innovation Fellowship, for example, have rare opportunities to work on projects grounded in AR/VR. One of our clients, MathTalk, recruited students in our Innovation Fellowship to build an AR/VR app that bolsters early education learning.

Through equipment libraries and mentorship from alumni at leading XR companies, we are able to provide students in our programs opportunities to work on AR/VR projects in a professional setting. BU Spark! is always looking for support to add to the equipment library for its students and on a rolling basis recruits projects for students to work on, students, mentors, and speakers. Find more about BU Spark! at www.bu.edu/spark or email buspark@bu.edu.

Igniting Interest in AR/VR

One of our core programs is our Spark! Ignite Student Council. The Ignite Student Council is comprised of leaders from more than 22 student clubs serving the technology community at Boston University. The Council serves as an advisory body to BU Spark! on key programs and collaborates on initiatives to foster inclusion and innovation among the computer science and engineering student community at BU.

BU Spark! interviewed the club’s president, Jared Yellen (CAS ‘21) to discuss the importance of AR/VR in the tech industry.

A: Currently AR/VR hardware is in a similar state to the early computers, where they were massive, expensive, and couldn’t even do much besides simple calculations using punch cards. There was no way to predict how far they would go and what they would eventually be able to do. AR/VR is in a similar state right now, and is much more than just an entertainment system like some people believe, since the technology has extremely valuable uses in every industry, be it sports, healthcare, real estate, factories, food, education, furniture, psychology, and more. The entire market is just waiting for people to develop the groundbreaking software and hardware in every field.

Q: Why does AR/VR and its capabilities interest you?

A: The ability to create and change anything about your current reality, and use the powers and limitations of the human brain to advance technology and humanity is fascinating to me, since there are so many things right now that we could drastically improve with these technologies. And of course, it also has some of the highest potential for entertainment.

Q: What do you hope to do after college?

A: I would like to work as project manager in the XR field, preferably being on the leading edge of discovering new ways to change the world with these technologies.

Students, like Jared, and enterprise partners help to fuel our BU Spark! programs and are constantly introducing new innovations and collaborative opportunities to our students.

Watch the BU Today video filmed at the Boston University’s Communications Research Center (CRC) and learn about the BU AR/VR Club.

Building Momentum

The collaboration between Digital Learning & Innovation, BU Spark!, the BU AR/VR Club and Boston University’s Human Resources enables the cross-college, interdisciplinary, collaboration we need for students, faculty, and staff to connect the dots between academic theory and real-world implementation.

BU Spark_Ziba Cranmer

About the Author: Ziba Cranmer is the Director of BU Spark!, an initiative for student-centered entrepreneurship and innovation in computing.