Husson will receive $2.2 million to enhance its unique program in Extended Reality

Husson University will receive $2.2 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation to train more students in extended reality technologies that allow people to mix reality with virtual experiences for training and a variety of other purposes.

The iEX Center in the College of Technology and Innovation, based at the Husson School of Business, will receive the grant as part of a push to educate students and meet the growing need for personnel well-versed in emerging technologies.

Extended Reality is an umbrella term referring to 3D computing environments that allow users to interact with their surroundings using immersive devices such as virtual reality glasses or that overlay artificial realities on an individual’s real-life surroundings using devices such as smartphones and electronic tablets.

The mobile game Pokémon Go has used augmented reality technology to allow users to “catch” digital animation monsters using their real-time locations and physical surroundings.

Social media giant Meta is selling a virtual headset, the Oculus Quest, that uses a display, sensors, portable consoles and audio to allow the user to engage in virtual reality gaming environments and obscure their real-world surroundings.

goldfinch is One From Just a Few Universities In the United States offering a degree in Extended Reality. The iEX Center for Husson, located in Harold Alfond Hall on the university’s Bangor campus, Began to let students to earn a Bachelor of Science in extended reality last fall.

Brave Williams, associate professor and director of the iEX Center, said the iEX Center will use the foundation’s grant to hire more staff, purchase equipment, and continue to excel as New England’s leading institute in extended reality.

Williams said students at iEX have built a 3D virtual courtroom to simulate a mock court, and are developing a project that will allow hospitality students to simulate the customer service experience at Geaghan’s Pub in Bangor.

iEX students conducted 3D scans and 360-degree videos of the interior of Geaghan to allow hospitality students to learn how to serve food and conduct other transactions in a virtual environment.

“As people work in [virtual reality] environments, they learn a lot faster, because they have the information they need in the context they need it,” Williams said. “It is presented the way they need it in the environment, and they need it. And they are able to interact with it more intuitively.”

Another iEX project, he said, allowed students to design an augmented reality app that would allow set designers to see their work carried on stage at the Gracie Huson Theatre.