media release

Media advisory: Innovations that stretch reality—virtually

April 13, 2016

Steve DiPaola, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, 604.719.6579;; web:
Marianne Meadahl, University Communications, 778.782.9017;

Virtual reality (VR) may soon be more than an individual virtual experience – just ask Shane Nillson, an SFU undergraduate student who already has his own VR company and is delving into “social” VR. He and his classmates in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) are experimenting with collaborative ways to use VR, where many people are in virtual worlds at once, using different VR head displays.

The project is one of several to be showcased at SFU’s Surrey campus on Thursday, April 14, from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. in the mezzanine as part of the IAT445 Immersive Environments Spring ’16 Showcase. Others will take visitors to a virtually interactive campfire, through the “fringes” of an ancient Greek archaeology site and into a free fall in the desert.

Students are studying with Steve DiPaola, a VR pioneer and former Electronic Arts director who taught 3D/VR at Stanford University before coming to SFU. Besides exploring innovative VR applications, Di Paola’s graduate students are landing significant jobs in the emerging field.

The co-creator of the 3D app FaceFries, launched by Apple in 2014, Di Paola is known internationally for his facial recognition research, which is also helping to develop new techniques to help teach autistic children. His earlier computer modeling techniques have shown how artists, including Rembrandt and other Renaissance painters, used intentional vision based techniques to guide the path of viewers’ eyes through their paintings. DiPaola is also responsible for creating a VR whales exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium and has lectured on the move away from live animals to virtual ones.

What: School of Interactive Arts and Technology (IAT445) Immersive Environments Spring ’16 Showcase.


When: Thursday April 14, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Where: SFU Surrey campus mezzanine, 13450 102 Avenue Surrey B.C

Project examples:

  • Interactive VR campfire—features new collaborative multi-user VR including networked devices (HTC Vive, 3 Google cardboards). The vive player is able to read a story and trigger animations that are controlled via the controllers and animations are seen by every VR player;
  • Project Ai Khanoum—visit a virtual heritage of the site Ai Khanoum, a hybrid Greek-Bactrian city. Feel/see what a city on the fringes of the ancient Greek world during the Hellenistic period may have looked like;
  • Take the Plunge —a falling simulation that takes place in a desert environment. This simulator hopes to recreate the adrenaline rush associated with high-risk activity in a low risk setting
  • Little Prince—enables people to find the curiosity they once had and not forget the childlike joys of going through life, as inspired by the Little Prince.

About Simon Fraser University

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 135,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities




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