Virtual reality takes off at HCC Southwest with help of industry partners

Mar 6, 2020

Houston Community College Southwest is taking a giant leap forward in virtual reality (VR) education joining hands with the nation’s leading VR and extended reality (XR) tech firms.

During their visit to an HCC Digital and Information Technology VR class recently, representatives of industry partners MACE Virtual Labs, Varjo, Future Tech and Infinadeck unveiled the leading-edge Varjo VR-1 headset with 8K quality human-eye resolution, which will be used in the HCC VR and XR programs.

Chad Modad, co-founder of MACE Virtual Labs, said the equipment, part of the newest technology  acquired by HCC Southwest, will usher in new learning experiences for students looking to pursue a career in the field.

“What this means for HCC is that these students get access to industrial enterprise technologies that they are going to see in the real world,” he said. “To have that experience, to be marketable and to take that creativity and apply it is what it’s all about.”

Sean Otmishi, dean of HCC Digital and Information Technology Center of Excellence, said HCC Southwest is offering a new XR design and development class this fall that leads to level 1, 2 and 3 certificates and an Associate of Applied Science degree in digital communication focused on VR design and development.

Modad described the partnership with HCC as a way to contribute to the success of students, who will become part of an upskilled technological workforce in Houston.

“We’re excited to partner with HCC to help build Houston as a technology center, which we envision will become the hub of these immersive technologies,” he said.

During the industry partners’ visit, students had a rare opportunity to hear from them about industry trends, marketable skills and career insights.

Dr. Dawn DuBose, chief of schools for the Stafford Municipal School District, shared in the excitement as her district looks to partner with HCC to offer the curriculum and technology to high school students at Stafford Municipal School District.

Ken Bossung, CEO of Infinadeck, said that HCC is leading the way with the December 2019 grand opening of its virtual reality lab at West Loop Campus in partnership with MACE. While some colleges nationwide have virtual reality programs and courses, only a handful have dedicated VR labs. Infinadek supplied HCC with an omnidirectional treadmill that works in tandem with XR/VR headsets.

“This is the first time that this kind of lab has been put together in the United States, and to have our omnidirectional treadmill inside the VR Lab at West Loop is a perfect combination of the college with the commercial sector,” Bossung said.

HCC Professor Russ Armstrong, program coordinator for the Digital Communications Department at HCC Southwest, said the new VR Lab is helping the college stay at the forefront of “new and exciting technology that can be used in many ways from the medical field to oil and gas to entertainment.”

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