BYU opens mixed reality lab

Utah-based Brigham Young University (BYU) has opened a new mixed reality lab to test how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) might become a part of everyday life in the future.

The lab is housed in the Crabtree Building by BYU’s information technology and cyber security programmes. It is used for the design and prototyping of mixed reality experiences.

“This is where the future is heading, so this is really good opportunity to figure out what kind of systems, procedures and policies we need to put in place now,” said BYU Mixed Reality Lab director Brady Redfearn.

“In the future, everyone will have stuff like this. At one point, it will be built into my glasses, and I’ll walk around, and it will just be normal. We are trying to plan for the future right now as far as using these systems on campus and then obviously giving students learning experiences.”

There are currently 25 students enrolled in the mixed reality class, IT 515R. Their semester-long project is to create an app implementing a mixed reality of some sort.

The lab is equipped with specialised computer systems, software products and headsets from different manufacturers

Currently, BYU students are working on building apps for nurse training in hospital settings, interior design and escape room games. They are also developing a grant proposal for a mixed-reality suicide prevention application.

IT and cyber security junior Trevor Allen is currently in the mixed reality class and works in the lab.

“When I heard about the mixed reality lab class, I thought it sounded really interesting,” Allen said. “I don’t have the money to afford this equipment at home, so the lab is a great resource for me.”

“On the learning side, it’s been a totally new exposure to technologies that have a lot of potential. It’s at the tip of anyone’s fingers. Anyone can come in here and learn how to develop technology that changes tomorrow.”

BYU IT and cyber security major Garrett Cook

IT and cyber security major Garrett Cook also works in the lab. Cook said: “On the learning side, it’s been a totally new exposure to technologies that have a lot of potential. It’s at the tip of anyone’s fingers. Anyone can come in here and learn how to develop technology that changes tomorrow.”

The lab prepares students for their future careers even if it doesn’t directly relate to their particular field of study. “Whether or not it’s their first job, most of the students in our programme will have to do something related to this,” Redfearn predicted.

“Eventually, all of these systems that we are experimenting with right now will be completely ubiquitous,” Redfearn said. “Something like your phone won’t be in your pocket anymore. It will be in your contact lenses or your glasses that you wear during the day. Everything that you do will be out in the real world around you transmitted through those vision devices.”