Semester in Alternate Realities

About the Program

Semester in Alternate Realities proposes a unique educational experience meant to inspire interdisciplinary teams to solve a real-world problem exploring Virtual reality (VR) and hybrid VR physical installations.

What is xR and “Alternate Realities”?

The xR (“Extended Reality”) space is an emerging umbrella term that includes development, critical theory and different types of research and human aspects in the areas of virtual, augmented and mixed realities. Part of the alternative realities program goal is to support and contribute skills and knowledge to this burgeoning area.

In this project-based course, participants will be challenged to develop solutions using technologies such as VR (e.g., Oculus Rift, HTC Vive) and immersive multi-modal media installations. In addition to focusing on the co-construction of digital prototypes affording meaningful experiences in “alternate realities”, our objective is to stimulate documented reflection and discussion throughout the process. Participants can expect to work collaboratively, be matched according to the skills they bring, and be provided time and resources to learn new techniques and approaches, soft- and hard skills, and processes to conduct user research. Participants will get the opportunity to reflect on future technologies and their potential impact on the world, and improve their presentation skills and publicly showcase their projects. To incorporate diverse perspectives, students from different disciplines are invited to apply and, in their application, argue how they could contribute to the course and the co-construction of team projects.

Who is this course for?

Upper-level undergraduate students with a keen interest in addressing real-world problems through designing alternate realities experiences. Students are expected to be fearless in their exploration, adoption and experimentation of immersive technologies, and open to and interested in exploring new ideas, concepts and perspectives in an interdisciplinary setting. Come prepared to work collaboratively with others.

For more information about the course, please see our course information video.

Course focus and design challenge

This semester’s design challenge is “creating for good”: Use alternate realities techniques and technologies, guiding theoretical frameworks, and appropriate processes, project management and collaboration approaches to iteratively ideate, design, prototype, and evaluate an interactive alternate realities experience that affords meaningful experiences for the betterment of humanity and/or our planet.

So what could projects look like?

To give you an idea what projects might look like, here are some VR project videos from previous student teams in courses that Bernhard and Patrick have taught:

There is increasing evidence that the immersive nature of VR makes it a powerful medium for doing good, and is particularly well suited for helping people develop compassion and empathy. In this course, we will explore the potential of doing good using alternate realities."