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What are the top public AR/VR schools and colleges in the U.S. for 2021?
|1||University of Washington||Washington|
|2||University of Maryland||Maryland|
|3||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||North Carolina|
|4||Georgia Institute of Technology||Georgia|
|5||Texas A&M University at College Station||Texas|
|6||University of California, San Diego||California|
|7||University of Utah||Utah|
|8||University of California, Berkeley||California|
|9||University of Michigan||Michigan|
|10||University of Illinois at Chicago||Illinois|
|11||Iowa State University||Iowa|
|12||North Carolina State University||North Carolina|
|13||University of Central Florida||Florida|
|14||Pennsylvania State University at Behrend||Pennsylvania|
|15||University of Arizona||Arizona|
|16||University of Florida||Florida|
|17||University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign||Illinois|
|18||University of California, Santa Cruz||California|
|21||The Ohio State University||Ohio|
|22||Rowan University||New Jersey|
|23||Wright State University||Ohio|
|24||University of Colorado Boulder||Colorado|
|25||University of Nebraska-Lincoln||Nebraska|
Our 2021 list -our first annual- of the Top 25 Public Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) School Programs in the US.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
University of Washington (UW) educates more than 54,000 students annually. Founded in 1861, UW is one of the oldest universities on the West Coast. The school, which has three campuses in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma, houses 18 colleges and schools, including the College of Arts and Sciences, home of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.
The Allen School, which introduced the world’s first augmented reality capstone course in 2016, offers a BS in Computer Science (CS), a Combined BS/MS in CS also known as the Fifth Year Master’s Program, a Professional Master’s (PMP) in CS, and a PhD in CS. The BS/MS enables current and recent Allen School undergraduate majors to earn both degrees in approximately five years. All programs benefit from the Allen School’s research and innovation in AR/VR as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Human Computer Interaction & Accessible Technology, Machine Learning, Robotics, Computer Graphics, Vision, Animation & Game Science, and Ubiquitous Computing.
Course highlights include Advanced Topics in Human-Computer Interaction-HCI (Graphics & Virtual Reality), Artificial Intelligence (AI) I & II, AI-based Mobile Robotics, Computer Systems Architecture, Computational Fabrication, Interaction Programming, Advanced Topics in Digital Animation, Computational Complexity, Interactive Learning, and Neural Control of Movement: A Computational Perspective.
Students in all programs have the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team of faculty and peers in the UW Reality Lab. Launched in 2018 and housed in the Allen School, the Lab includes the Reality Studio, Reality Lab Incubator, and classes. In addition to advancing AR/VR research, Lab participants will work on projects in 3D computer vision and perception, object recognition, graphics, game science and education, distributed computing, stream processing, databases and computer architecture, and privacy and security.
Allen School CS graduates go on to work in the Arts, Education, Law, and many other areas.
2. University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
The University of Maryland (UMD) is the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland (USM), which consists of 12 institutions, three regional centers, and one system office. Established in 1856, UMD serves just over 40,700 students enrolled in 300+ academic programs in more than a dozen colleges and schools. Programs for aspiring AR/VR professionals are offered in the Colleges of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) and Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (CMNS). Options include a BA or BS in Immersive Media Design and BS, MS, BS/MS, and PhD degrees in Computer Science with an AR/VR focus.
Immersive Media Design (IMD) students will learn to “code, create and collaborate using the latest digital tools and technologies,” says the school. Students may focus in Art or Computer Science to graduate with a BA from the College of ARHU or a BS from College of CMNS.
Housed in the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, the College of CMNS, Department of Computer Science, serves more than 3,400 students “with interests ranging from systems to programming languages, from algorithms to design and from VR to Robotics.” Department highlights include research opportunities, study abroad experiences, internships, and participation in the honors program.
Students in all programs have access to the UMD Graphics and Visual Informatics Laboratory (GVIL), and the Mixed/Augmented/Virtual Reality Innovation Center (MAVRIC).
Established in 2000 by the Department of Computer Science, the GVIL promotes “research and education in computer graphics, scientific visualization, and virtual environments.” Current projects include “several driving applications for next-generation virtual and augmented reality, including augmented navigation, medical training, virtual manufacturing, and immersive education.”
MAVRIC was created to support the future of XR, foster XR talent, and connect developers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and researchers through events, workshops, and programs.
UMD also houses the Maryland Blended Reality Center (MBRC)—a multidisciplinary partnership that joins computing experts at the University of Maryland with medical professionals at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). Launched in 2017, MBRC’s mission is to “advance visual computing tools—many of them based in immersive technologies like virtual, augmented and mixed reality—that can be used for emergency medicine, health care and innovative educational and training modules.”
Graduates of the Computer Science, Immersive Media Design, and other programs go on to “earn competitive jobs,” in tech industries or federal laboratories. Some “join professions such as medicine, teaching, and law.”
Notable alumni include Sergey Brin, Co-founder of Google; Gary Flake, a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer and founder of Yahoo! Research Labs; and Naresh Gupta, Senior Vice President of Adobe’s Print and Publishing Business Unit.
3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Established in 1789, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) is the only public university in the U.S. to award degrees in 18th century. The school offers 74 bachelors, 104 masters, 65 doctorate, and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools. A member of the UNC System (16 universities), UNC-Chapel Hill serves around 30,100 students.
Program options for AR/VR students are housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Computer Science. Established in 1964, the Department was one of the first independent computer science departments in the U.S.
Pathways include BS and MS degrees in Computer Science with a Computer Graphics or HCI Research Area. Computer Graphics subareas include Animation & Simulation, Virtual Environments, and Visualization. HCI offers a Virtual Environments subarea. A PhD in Computer Science is also available.
Department course highlights include 2D Computer Graphics, Connecting Language to Vision and Robotics, Digital Culture, Digital Logic and Computer Design, Human Robot Interaction, Machine Learning, Models of Languages & Computation, Scientific Programming, and Software Engineering Laboratory.
Students in all programs have access the Graphics, Imaging, and Robotics Lab and the Graphics and 3D Vision Laboratory. The Graphics, Imaging, and Robotics Lab is a 3,500 sq. ft. space located in J. Carlyle Sitterson Hall. Most of the Lab is dedicated to work in effective virtual environments. The remaining area, which houses a variety of robots, focuses on robotics research.
Housed in the Frederick P. Brooks Jr. Computer Science Building and Sitterson Hall, the new Graphics and 3D Vision Laboratory is situated in a noise-controlled, 2,500 sq. ft. space divided into three research zones by floor-to-ceiling blackout curtains for light and sound suppression. Zones include Projective Display Research, Computer Vision and Optical Tracking Research, and Physical Simulation and Audio Synthesis Research with a focus on GPU processing. The space has “11-foot ceilings and a Unistrut mounting grid to mount hardware as needed.”
Other facilities include “specialized research laboratories for graphics and image processing, computer building and design, and collaborative, distributed, and parallel systems.” Past and present projects and groups include the Ultrasound/Medical Augmented Reality Group, Effective Virtual Environments Project, Geometric Algorithms for Modeling, Motion, and Animation Group (GAMMA) Project, and the Walkthrough Group (simulated walkthroughs of architectural models).
UNC-Chapel Hill graduates work in a range of industries, in companies ranging from small start-up operations to government laboratories and large research and development corporations.
4. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) has campuses in Atlanta, Georgia; Metz, France; and Shenzhen, China. The school opened as the Georgia School of Technology in October 1888 with just 84 students. Today, Georgia Tech serves nearly 40,000 students from 50 states and 149 countries.
Majors and degrees are offered through the colleges of Design, Computing, Engineering, and Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Programs for AR/VR students are offered in the Ivan College of Liberal Arts, School of Literature, Media, and Communication, and the College of Computing, Schools of Computer Science, Interactive Computing, and Computational Science & Engineering. Options include a BS in Computational Media, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science, and Minors in Computing & Devices, Computing & Intelligence, and Computing & People, to name a few.
With 300 students, the BS in Computational Media is one of Georgia Tech’s fastest growing programs. Students have opportunities to focus in Interaction, Games, Narrative, and more. Course highlights include Constructing the Moving Image, Interaction Design, Computer Animation, and Experimental Media. Sample careers include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Special Effects Creation, Interactive Game Design and Simulation, Robotics, and Animation.
The Computer Science programs at Georgia Tech provide opportunities for students to select from research areas such Virtual & Augmented Environments, Ubicomp & Wearable Computing, AI and Machine Learning, Robotics and Perception, and Geometry, Graphics, and Animation.
Students in all programs have access to Georgia Techs GVU Center, which supports AI, AR/VR, HCI, Robotics, Wearable Computing and other research. Within the GVU Center is the Augmented Environments Lab, which focuses on “understanding how to build interactive computing environments that directly augment a user's senses with computer-generated material,” says the school.
Also located in the GVU Center is the Prototyping eNarrative Lab. Also known as PeN Lab, the Lab “applies digital information design and interaction design principles to digital storytelling to create more complex and expressive narratives, focusing on emerging platforms like experimental television, virtual reality, and augmented reality, and on the intersection of storytelling with game design and simulation design.”
Sample Lab projects include Bringing Interactivity to Static Data Visualizations through Augmented Reality, Escape Room VR, Interaction Techniques for Children's AR Education, Invisible Cities: Multi-user AR Public Monuments, The Lights of St. Etienne: An AR/MR Experience in the Cathedral in Metz, France, WebXR: Experiences in AR and VR for the Web, and Pipping: Exploring Passive Haptics in Virtual Reality.
Georgia Tech graduates can be found working in leadership positions in consulting, engineering, financial services, healthcare, law, manufacturing, retailing, transportation, humanitarian logistics, and more. They have been hired by companies such as Apple, Boeing, Cisco Systems, Delta Airlines, Disney, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Tesla, and many others.
5. Texas A&M University at College Station, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University at College Station (TAMU or Texas A&M) was established in 1876 as the state's first public institution of higher learning. Today, the school is a research-intensive, flagship university consists of 17 academic colleges and schools and two branch campuses, serving just over 71,100 students.
The College of Architecture houses the Visualization Laboratory and Department of Visualization. Established in 1988, the Texas A&M Visualization Laboratory launched the Visualization academic program in 1989. Pathways offered include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization. A PhD in Architecture with a Concentration in Visualization is also available.
The BS-V highlights studio classes in a specific are of interest supported by courses in programming, art theory, and technical learning. Also part of the program is a required internship, study abroad experience, or study at another university for a semester. Graduates of the program are prepared for a range of careers in Visualization.
The MS-V “is designed to give all students a basic grasp of the artistic, scientific, cognitive, and technical foundations of the discipline,” says the school. Graduates of the program are prepared for a range of long-term careers in Visualization.
“The MFA-V is unique in the State of Texas, and one of only a handful of programs of this kind in the United States.” The “curriculum is highly interdisciplinary and encourages development of new technologies and creative applications to create deeper insight and understanding.” Graduates of the program are “equipped with an uncommon balance of artistic insight and technical prowess that sets them apart from their peers.”
The PhD Program focuses “primarily on research and the development and dissemination of new knowledge.” Graduates are prepared for careers in research and teaching.
Students in all programs have access to [email protected] and the MAESTRO Lab.
[email protected] is lab that conducts research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Human-Centered Computing, and Interactive Systems. The Lab consists of five research groups: TEILab, The StoryLab, McNamara Lab, INDIE Lab, and the Soft Interaction Lab. Depending on the group, topics covered include AR/VR, Child-Computer Interaction, Data Visualization, Embodied Interaction, Interactive Storytelling, Soft Materials Interaction, and many others. AR/VR students may be drawn to the INDIE Lab and the Soft Interaction Lab, among others.
The INDIE Lab (Interactive Data and Immersive Environments) engages in human-centered research of interactive visualizations. The group actively collaborates with multiple departments and faculty across the university. Research areas include Virtual Reality, 3D Interaction, Visual Analytics, Information Visualization, and Educational Games.
The Soft Interaction Lab integrates “physical and virtual experiences experimenting soft/organic materials and tangible interaction technology.”
Located in the College of Engineering’s Department of Aerospace Engineering, the MAESTRO Lab is a dedicated space designed for the “development of new multi-physical active material actuators and new metrologies and immersive data environments for the experimental assessment and computational analysis of aerospace structures.” Within the Lab is the MAESTRO VR Studio—an Immersive Mechanics Visualization Lab dedicated to the “tasks and goals of the Immersive and Intuitive Data Environments project. Focus areas include AR/VR and 3D Displays.
6. University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) was founded in 1961, but the campus that it sits on dates back to the late 1800s when the location was chosen as the location for a marine field station for zoologists at the UC Berkeley campus. The facility became a part of the University of California in 1912, and it was eventually named Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Today, UCSD is one of the nine campuses of the UC System and it supports a community of 35,000 students.
UCSD has seven colleges, including the Jacob School of Engineering—which houses the Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) Department. Program options include BS, MS, BS/MS, and PhD degrees in Computer Science (CS). A CS Minor is also available as well as a Virtual Reality App Development Certificate Program.
The Certificate Program covers which VR devices exist, how VR technology works, and how to write software (VR experiences). Students will learn “effective 3D interaction techniques to use VR applications, how to write VR applications in WebVR and Unity 3D, and what features make a VR application successful,” says the school. Course highlights include Creating Virtual Reality Apps, Computer Graphics, and How Virtual Reality Works.
CSE Department focus areas include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Robotics, Programming Systems, Software Engineering, and Visual Computing (Computer Graphics and Computer Vision), to name a few.
Undergraduate CS students have access to the CSE Virtual Reality Lab (VR Lab). “The first of its kind at an American University,” says the school, the VR Lab “looks like a cross between a classroom and a tech pavilion at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There are virtual-reality headsets everywhere, and large flat screen 3D displays.” The Lab also houses the 300-member VR Club at UC San Diego.
CS and Certificate graduates are prepared for careers such as Software Developer, AR/VR Maintenance and Support, Graphics Engineer, XR Gameplay and Tools Engineer, VR Developer, VR Technician, Design/Graphics Engineer, and many others.
7. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
The School of Computing at University of Utah was founded as the Computer Science Department in 1965. Current research areas for the School include Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning, Visual Computing, Human-Centered Computing/Virtual Reality, Robotics, High Performance Computing, and Programming Languages/Software Engineering, to name a few. Pathways for students interested in AR/VR include BS and MS degrees in Computer Science with a Human-Centered Computing/Virtual Reality Research Area.
An additional program for students interested in AR/VR is offered in the College of Fine Arts, Department of Film & Media Arts. The Department’s BA in Film & Media Arts has a Media Arts Production (MAP) Emphasis that covers "transmedia" virtual reality, immersive reality, interactive media, social media, and mobile media.
Course highlights for the program include 3D Computer Animation, Media Arts Production, Digital Effects & Compositing, Sound for Film and Digital Media, Storyboarding/Visual Storytelling, and Editing. Students in all programs have access to the Quantitative Experience Design (QED) Lab and XR Utah.
The University of Utah QED Lab is “an interdisciplinary research group,” says the school, that builds “human-centered artificial intelligence systems in search of invariant properties of experience design: precise relationships that exist between an inner environment (a person’s cognitive states), interface (narrative & game discourse) and outer environment (virtual worlds).” The Lab is affiliated with the School of Computing and the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Program.
XR Utah is an interdisciplinary research partnership “headed by Eccles Health Sciences Library at the University of Utah.” The purpose of the partnership is to build “common infrastructure for information sharing, tech development, and data collection by bringing together” artists, computer scientists, educators, and psychologists across more than 16 departments at the University of Utah. Participants “conduct cutting-edge research in fostering new ways of learning and discovery through the use of innovative forms of virtual reality technologies that span across disciplines.”
Graduates of the Computer Science and Film & Media Arts Programs have landed positions in Utah, across the country, and around the world. They work in fields such as Technology, Entertainment, Marketing, Game Design, Engineering, Medical, Education, and more.
University of Utah was established in 1850. The school serves more than 33,000 students enrolled in hundreds of majors, minors, certificate and graduate programs in 18 colleges and schools and nearly 100 departments.
8. University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
Established in 1868, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) offers more than 350 degree programs to nearly 22,000 students. Programs are offered in 14 colleges and schools that house dozens of departments. The Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS) Department offers two different undergraduate degrees from two different colleges: the BS in EECS offered by the College of Engineering (CoE), and the BA in Computer Science (CS) from the College of Letters & Science (L&S).
Technical requirements in CS “are almost identical,” says the school. “However, breadth requirements and admissions processes vary significantly.” Course highlights for both programs include The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Designing Information Devices and Systems, Machine Structures, and Data Structures and Programming Methodology.
All EECS and CS students have access to the XR [email protected]—a Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Laboratory (VR/AR/MR), the student-run Extended [email protected] (est. 2015), and the FHL Vive Center for Enhanced Reality, which sponsors research and “high-impact” applications in AR/VR and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Collectively, the Labs and Centers at UC Berkeley “train new engineers in all aspects of Virtual and Augmented Reality, raise awareness about technology’s potential for humanity, and advance the field through state-of-art research and development initiatives.”
Graduates of the programs go on to work in a variety of environments and fields such as Computer Systems Design Firms, Computer Vision and Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, Software Development, Defense, Production, Design, Entertainment, Healthcare, Engineering, Aerospace, and more.
9. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (UM) serves more than 40,000 students enrolled in hundreds of programs in 19 schools, colleges, and divisions. Founded in 1817 as one of the first public universities in the nation, UM houses one of the world’s oldest and largest programs in Computation. The area serves nearly 11,000 students.
Pathways for AR/VR students include BS and MS degrees in Computer Science and a Minor. A Graduate Certificate in Extended Reality (XR) is also available in the School of Information. The Computer Science degrees are offered in two colleges—the College of Engineering and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA). Programs are administered by the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Division of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department. Note that programs are “program requirements are almost exactly the same for both majors,” says the school.
Course highlights for the CS Programs include Interactive Computer Graphics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Programming Languages, Human-Centered Software Design & Development, Computer Game Design and Development, Autonomous Robotics, and Machine Learning.
To enhance the MS degree, graduate students may add the Graduate Certificate in XR. Open to all graduate students regardless of degree program, the XR program requires 12 credit hours of study. Students will learn about the design, construction, and evaluation of XR experiences. Pre-approved previous, current, and future courses include AR/VR for Sustainability, Augmented Tectonics, Developing AR/VR Experiences, Educational Applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, Immersive Media, Sci-Fi Prototyping, and Virtual Engagement in Digital Technologies.
Students in all programs have access to the Center for Academic Innovation’s XR Initiative. Founded in 2019, the Initiative works with all 19 schools, colleges, and divisions to develop new XR related educational technology designed to enhance the learning experience for students. The Initiative also focuses on making XR technology more accessible on campus and encouraging its use in higher education.
Initiative participants “work with university faculty to actively look for new ideas and opportunities to support.” Past projects include Cross-platform XR Tools for Supporting Student Creativity in Immersive Audio Design, Comparison of Student Learning of Head and Neck Anatomy and Diagnosis of Pathology Using XR, and XR Studio.
UM CS and XR graduates are prepared for careers in AR/VR, Digital Arts and Entertainment, Software Engineering, Simulation Engineering, Applications Development, and more.
10. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Formed in 1982 and serving 33,518 students across 16 colleges and schools, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is the largest university in the Chicago metropolitan area. The College of Engineering at UIC houses the Department of Computer Science (CS), which is the fastest growing program at the school. Pathways include a BS in CS and Design, an MS and BS/MS in CS, and a CS Minor. A PhD in CS is also available for students interested in research or teaching.
UIC is the only public university in the U.S. that offers a Computer Science and Design undergraduate degree “created specifically to prepare students for these opportunities,” says the school. The program “offers professional training in both fields, integrating design courses — fundamental through advanced — with a strong foundation in computer programming.”
Examples of areas covered include AR/VR Design, Computer Graphics, Creative Coding, Human-Centered Computing, Designing and Developing Digital Interfaces and Applications, Media Design, and Virtual Health and Medicine. The program consists of a combination of studio courses and required technical courses that allow students to “work in teams and to practice being a bridge between the technological and the creative.”
The MS in CS consists of 36 credit hours. Students may enroll in the BS/MS Program, which takes just five years to complete. The MS has coursework only, project (capstone), and thesis options (research or PhD preparation). Featured courses include Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Design of Mobile Apps, and Video Game Design and Development.
Students in all programs have access to the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL and the Human-in-Mind Engineering Research Lab (HiMER).
Established in 1973, EVL is an interdisciplinary research laboatory in the College of Engineering’s Computer Science Department “that specializes in collaborative visualization, virtual reality, visual data science, and advanced computing and networking infrastructure.” The Lab is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Argonne National Laboratory, The Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation, the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the State of Illinois, and UIC.
The HiMER Lab highlights recently funded research including AR/VR, Human Performance Modeling, Human-System Interaction, Data Analytics, and Transportation Safety. Recent AR/VR projects include Projection-Based Mixed Reality Platform-Spatial Mixed Reality, Gaze-Based Multimodal Interactions in AR, and Human Perception and Cognition in AR.
UIC CS graduates have landed positions at Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cisco, Facebook, Google, HP, LG, Microsoft, Redbox, Verizon, and more.
11. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University (ISU) is a public, land-grant university that welcomed its first class in 1869. The school serves 31,825 students enrolled in more than 100 majors in 10 colleges and schools. The Graduate College offers several programs for students interested in AR/VR. Options include MS and PhD degrees in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and a Master of Human-Computer Interaction (MHC – offered on-campus and online). A 12 credit hour HCI Graduate Certificate is also available.
Students in the interdisciplinary HCI program “benefit from interacting with ISU faculty from departments representing every college in the University,” says the school, “as well as researchers” at the Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC). Core courses in HCI are divided into four areas: Design, Implementation, Phenomena, and Evaluation.
Course highlights include Virtual Worlds and Applications, Python Application Development in HCI, Computer Graphics and Geometric Modeling, Models and Theories in Human Computer Interaction, Learn to Speak AI, Advanced Learning Environments Design, and User Engagement.
The VRAC leads ISU’s HCI Program. This interdisciplinary research center “supports the research of faculty and students representing all seven of ISU’s colleges, as well as the interests of collaborators from several federal agencies and numerous industry partners.” Participants have a variety of “strengths in state-of-the-art interaction technologies” including virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) mobile computing, developmental robotics, haptics interaction, HCI, and user experience (UX).
Graduates of the HCI Programs at ISU are prepared for careers in the private or public sector. Master’s degree graduates are also prepared for continuation of studies in a PhD program.
12. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Founded in 1887 as the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, North Carolina State University (NC State or NCSU) serves more than 36,000 students. The school offers more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in 12 colleges and schools housing 65 departments.
The College of Design houses the Art + Design Department, which offers BA and MA degrees in Art + Design. A Minor is also available. Students in all programs have access to the College of Design’s Experience Design and Mixed Reality Labs, and the College of Engineering’s Virtual and Augmented Reality Lab.
The Experience Design Lab (IX) is a cross-disciplinary community of artists, designers, humanists, scientists and engineers that explore “virtual and augmented experiences as a cultural practice,” says the school.
The Mixed Reality (MxR) Lab consists of designers, engineers and “tinkerers” working on the “challenge of creating impactful changes in the user experience of Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality (VR, AR, MR) technologies.” Current projects include Axe One, Pop’n’Play, and Morphaces.
The Virtual and Augmented Reality Lab (VR) in the College of Engineering’s Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering studies the interaction between humans and AR/VR. Researchers in the Lab also explore “the potentials in VR/AR for various real-world applications.” Current active projects include User Performance Training and Patient Motor Learning.
Available equipment includes four-sided (C4) Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) with full-body tracking capability, several head-mounted displays (HMDs), and a head-up display (HUD). In addition, a number of other peripheral devices that support movement tracking are available.
In the College of Design’s interdisciplinary BA in Art + Design, students have the opportunity to learn about and develop creative portfolios in areas such as AR/VR, Interactive and Computational Media, Motion Graphics, Visual Effects, Graphic and Interactive Narratives, Game Design, 3D Modeling, and many others. Course highlights include Art + Design Laboratory, Creative Technology, Digital Imaging, Advanced Digital Techniques, Digital Motion, Animation, and Visualization.
The MA in Art + Design (M.A.D) focuses on Experimental Media Arts. The program “encourages students to explore the intersection of digital and material technologies,” says the school, “to create interactive and engaging experiences that push the boundaries of storytelling, learning and play.” Depending on the student’s academic background and experience, they may enroll in the 30-, 48- or 72-credit Track. Course highlights include Digital Motion, Special Effects, Animation, Dynamic Data, Digital Modeling, Coding for Designers, Sequential Imaging, and Visualizing Narratives.
Graduates of the Art + Design Department are currently working in fields such as Software Design, Multimedia, Illustration, Textile Design, Fashion and Apparel Design, Art and Design Education, Photography, Filmmaking, Special Effects-Digital, Set Design, Exhibition Design, Museum Education, Public Art and Entrepreneurs.
13. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida (UCF) offers more than 230 degree programs in 13 colleges. The College of Engineering and Computer Science, Department of Computer Science offer several programs of interest for aspiring AR/VR professionals. Options include a BS in Computer Science (CS), an Accelerated BS/MS in CS, and MS and PhD degrees in Modeling and Simulation.
Course highlights for the BS in CS include Advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), AI for Game Programming, Algorithms for Machine Learning, Computer Architecture, Computer Graphics, Game Programming, Robot Vision, and Software Engineering. Graduates of the program are prepared for careers in AR/VR, Computer Architecture, Computer Gaming, Computer Vision, Evolutionary Computing, Media Convergence, Robotics, and many others.
The MS in CS allows students to specialize in a research area. This includes options such as Virtual Reality and Human Computer Interaction (HCI), AI, Mixed and Virtual Reality Mobile Computing, Machine Learning, and Modeling and Simulation. Pairing (combining two research areas) is also an option. In addition to the Specialization, students in the program “receive a broad background in the areas of programming systems and languages, computer architecture, and computer science theory.”
In addition to working in AR/VR, graduates of the MS in CS Program work in Computer Science, Computer Systems, Software Development, Cyber/Information Security, Software Engineering, and more.
In addition to the CS Programs, UCF’s Computer Science Department houses the SREAL Synthetic Reality Lab and the Interactive Systems and User Experience Lab.
The SREAL Synthetic Reality Lab is a center for researchers, software developers, artists (modelers/animators), interactors (digital puppeteers), PhD students, and affiliated faculty members. With 7,000 square feet of experimental and office space, SREAL houses areas for the development of mixed reality experiences, the delivery of interactive training using digital avatar technology, human surrogate and robotics research, and developing cultural heritage and STEM experiences.
SREAL (pronounced Surreal) is part of several larger UCF entities, most notably the Institute for Simulation & Training (IST), which houses it.
The Interactive Systems and User Experience Lab focuses on “the creation and evaluation of advanced interfaces that support education, entertainment, and general work productivity.” The mission of the Lab is to “develop innovative techniques, tools, and applications that improve the overall experience between humans and machines.”
14. Pennsylvania State University at Behrend, Erie, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State University at Behrend (Penn State Behrend) is a four-year and graduate college of Penn State. The school serves 5,050 students enrolled in more than 45 academic programs in four schools—the Black School of Business, School of Engineering, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and School of Science.
The School of Humanities and Social Sciences houses the Digital Media, Arts, and Technology (DIGIT) Program—Penn State’s only undergraduate degree in Digital Humanities. The BA in DIGIT is an interdisciplinary program “combines the broad perspective of the liberal arts with technical skill,” says the school. This means, students will study technology history and theory while “learning to use the newest programming languages, digital tools, and computer systems.”
Students can enhance their skills by participating in the Virtual/Augmented Reality (VAR) Lab at Penn State Behrend.
The VAR Lab “works with students, the community, and industry partners to implement augmented and virtual reality solutions.” Lab participants have opportunities to “recreate historically important venues in AR/VR to bring the world to Pennsylvania students ((e.g., Fort Le Boeuf). Methods of recreation in the Lab include “using visually and spatially accurate lidar scans of existing venues and designing 2D/3D digital models when scanning is not an option.”
Lab participants will also work to “address training gaps in the workplace (e.g., virtual training simulations),” and increase the “accessibility, affordability, and availability of mental health initiatives.”
DIGIT students also have the opportunity to add two concentrations, a second major or a Minor in an area such as Interactive Entertainment (Game Development). Concentration options include Modeling and Simulation/Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Sound and Motion, Digital Humanities, and Data Visualization and Assessment.
In addition to working in AR/VR in a wide range of fields, career options for DIGIT graduates include Digital Art, Technical Producer, Digital Art Director, Front-End Analyst, Digital Marketing Strategist, Designer, and Digital Video Editor, to name a few.
15. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
Serving nearly 47,000 students, University of Arizona (est. 1885) offers Bachelors, Master’s, and Doctoral degree programs as well as first professional programs and specialist programs, and a variety of undergraduate and graduate minors. Programs are offered in 20 colleges and additional specialized schools. The University of Arizona (UArizona) College of Social & Behavioral Sciences houses the School of Information (iSchool), which offers a BS in Information Science and Technology and a Games and Simulation Certificate.
The BS Program is organized into three tiers: Core Courses, Intensive Computing, and Research Methods, Computational Arts, and Society. The Intensive Computing tier consists of a “customized course selection based on student focus,” says the school. Coursework can include virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, human-computer interaction (HCI), neural networks, and informatics applications. The tier has a required Individual Studies Component and Senior Capstone course.
The Games and Simulation Certificate “provides students with the design and development skills necessary to create virtual interactive environments that span across devices and platforms.” Course highlights for the program include Virtual Reality, Game Programming, Computing and the Arts, Technology of Sound, and Advanced Game Development. Students in the program will gain real-world experience through collaboration with peers and the creation of several working prototypes.
Other program highlights include access to several active labs and employment opportunities with major companies. Some top employers hiring UArizona graduates include Amazon, Raytheon Technologies, Microsoft, Intel Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Texas Instruments (TI), and IMB Systems & Technology Group.
The Extended Reality and Games Lab (XRG Lab) is housed within the iSchool. Researchers and participants here study novel interaction techniques and the enhancement of extended (virtual/augmented/mixed) reality systems for improved usability and user experience. Work in the lab “mainly consists of design, development and evaluation (through empirical user studies) of these interaction techniques and enhanced extended reality systems.”
XRG Lab projects are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the UArizona Social & Behavioral Sciences Research Institute (SBSRI), and others. Project examples include Grabbable Holograms, Googly Eyes, Mirrored VR, and Bounce: A Mixed Reality Serious Game for Teaching Newtonian Physics Concepts.
The UArizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences houses an additional lab known as the 3D Visualization and Imaging Systems Lab. Designed for research in emerging technologies such as mixed- and augmented realities (MR-AR), the Lab focuses on the development of 2D/3D display systems, 3D visualization systems, 3D human computer interaction methods, and image acquisition systems. Researchers are interested in applying these technologies in medicine, scientific visualization, and education.
16. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Florida (UF) serves nearly 58,000 students making it one of the top five largest universities in the state. The school offers 100 undergraduate majors and 200 graduate programs in 16 colleges. Among UF’s colleges is the College of the Arts, which houses the Digital Worlds Institute. Here, students interested in AR/VR can earn a Master’s in Digital Arts & Sciences (MiDAS).
This one year, accelerated master’s program in emerging technologies (specifically AR/VR) accepts individuals from all backgrounds. Program highlights include a collaborative environment, personal attention from faculty and content area experts and opportunities to work on industry-standard projects and create a professional portfolio.
The MiDAS Program covers Technical Skills: Game Engines and Development (i.e. Unity 3D) and Software and Hardware Integration; Design and Interactivity: Visual Design Tools/Tech, 3D for VR/AR UI-UX, Audio, Digital Compositing, and Digital Storytelling; and Professional Skills: Project Proposals, Production Pipelines, Project Management, and Critical Thinking and Analysis.
Students will have access to the UF Reality Lab at the Digital Worlds Institute. The Lab explores and promotes research and educational endeavors in AR/VR. Sample courses in the Lab include Production of Immersive Environments, Digital Storytelling, Movement, Media, and Machines, and Interdisciplinary Research Seminar.
Past student projects have included include Space Mail, ScootVR, HoloTouch, Virtual Standardized Patient, WonderLab, Metrolia VR Multiplayer Mech Duel, and SpArc: Animate Using Your Hands in Virtual Reality.
Graduates of the MiDAS Program and others at UF have landed positions at 22squared, Aramark, Cox Media Group, ESPN, Glaxo Smith Klein, Reed Exhibitions, Boeing, Walt Disney, GE Digital and Meridium, Spirit Airlines, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Navy.
17. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Champaign, Illinois
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) serves more than 47,000 students from all 50 states and 100+ countries. Founded in 1867, the school is one of the original 37 public land-grant institutions created after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862.
UIUC offers more than 150 undergraduate programs and over 100 graduate and professional programs in 16 colleges, schools, and academic units. Grainger College of Engineering’s Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, houses a Computer Science (CS) program suited for students interested in careers in AR/VR. Options include a BS, MS, and 12 credit hour Minor in Computer Science (CS).
Students in the BS in CS have the opportunity to take up to 18 credit hours of technical electives and six hours of CS advanced electives. This allows students focus in an area of interest. The Media, Intelligence and Big Data, and Human and Social Impact areas include course options such as Virtual Reality, AI for Computer Games, Applied Machine Learning, Mobile Interactive Design, Audio Computing Lab, to name a few.
The MS in CS is a research-oriented degree that requires 28 credit hours of coursework and four credit hours of thesis. The program consists of 10 core areas, including Interactive Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Scientific Computing, and Programming Languages to name a few.
In addition to choosing a focus area (BS) or core area courses (MS) that suit their interests, students have access to the [email protected] Lab.
Supported by members from the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL) and University Library’s IDEA Lab and Media Commons and funded by investments from campus Technology Services, [email protected] is a collaborative initiative that supports “virtual, augmented, and extended reality teaching, research, and exploration” at UIUC, says the school.
The Lab houses studio spaces for VR creation and exploration, mobile virtual reality classrooms, and loanable headsets and cameras for viewing and capturing 360 media. Lab experts provide consultations on implementing VR in the classroom and assistance with VR research projects.
Graduates of the Computer Science and other related programs at UIUC are routinely hired by some of the world’s top companies. Top employers include Amazon, Google, Microsoft Corp., Deloitte, Ernst & Young and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Other employers include Apple Inc., Tesla, Facebook, IBM, Caterpillar and ADM.
18. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz or UCSC) is part of the 10-campus University of California System. The school serves nearly 19,200 students enrolled in 130 programs in dozens of colleges and schools. The Baskin School of Engineering, Computational Media Department (CM) houses the BS and MS Programs in Computer Science, and the MS and PhD degrees in Computational Media.
Course highlights for the programs include, Introduction to Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, Computer Systems and C Programming, Programming Abstractions: Python, Game AI, User Experience for Interactive Media, Software Engineering, Computational Media Methods, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Applied Machine Learning, Advanced Computer Graphics and Animation Laboratory, and Data Programming for Visualization.
Students will complete a variety of projects throughout all programs. In the final year, graduate students will complete a thesis OR additional project with written report.
Also housed within the Baskin School is the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) Lab. In the Lab, faculty and students have the opportunity to “create three-dimensional virtual environments that multiple users can interact with at the same time,” says the school. The facility houses a room-sized, advanced visualization system also called the CAVE, which “combines a high-resolution, stereoscopic projection and 3-D computer graphics to create a complete sense of presence in a virtual environment.”
Multiple users in the CAVE can become “fully immersed in the same virtual environment at the same time.” The CAVE Lab also features “moveable walls that allow the environment to be reconfigured for different applications,” along with “Mechdyne CAVE and FLEX technology.” The Unity development platform is used to create 3-D interactive environments.
19. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Established in 1804, Ohio University is the state’s first public university. Serving nearly 30,000 students across more than 10 campuses and centers, the school houses nine colleges that offers more than 250 programs of study.
The Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University is home to the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies (ECT), which offers an Information and Telecommunication Systems Major, (ITS ECT) with a VR/AR Track. In partnership with the School of Media Arts & Studies, the McClure School also offers a VR and Game Development Emphasis, which is part of the Games and Animation Major.
The VR/AR Track , which leads to a BS degree, is “dedicated to emerging communication technologies production, e.g., virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) while also covering information networking and telecommunication systems,” says the school. Students in the program develop a “competitive edge by combining courses that build competency in both networking and content production.”
They will learn “about the design, management, regulation, and application of information network technology; the production, use, and implementation of VR/AR; as well as how businesses acquire and sell such products and services.”
The VR and Game Development Emphasis leads to a BS in Media Arts and Studies – Games and Animation. Students begin the program “with a game design or animation pathway, with many options to enhance either area,” including courses in AR/VR offered by the McClure School. The emphasis area is “enhanced with courses exploring information technology and networks, as well as scripting and coding.” Students also “pursue additional credentials such as a business or communication minor, or certificates in entrepreneurship or social media.”
Students in all programs have access to Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab. Established in 2005, the GRID Lab is an initiative of Scripps College. Developed by the School of Media Arts and Studies, the Lab focuses on the research and development of virtual reality, serious and educational games, simulations, and computer animation. It “provides Ohio University with the personnel, facilities, and tools to create such interactive digital media and technologies.”
The McClure School has the highest job placement rate in the Scripps College of Communication. VR/AR graduates have gone on to work for Warner Brothers, Sony, Disney, Bethesda, Microsoft, Unity, and many other major tech and entertainment companies. ITS graduates are also employed in branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and in state and federal government offices and with consulting companies like Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, PwC, and Capgemini.
VR and Game Development graduates have been hired at Blizzard, Disney/Disney Imagineering, EA, Google, Sony PlayStation, Riot Games, Unity, and many others.
20. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Founded in 1869, Purdue opened its doors on September 16, 1874 with six instructors and 39 students. Today, the West Lafayette campus serves 46,000 students, and approximately 2,000 full-time faculty teach and conduct research in Purdue’s 12 colleges and schools, and Purdue Polytechnic Institute.
For students interested in AR/VR, Purdue Polytechnic Institute offers an MS in Computer Graphics Technology (MS CGT). This “highly flexible degree,” enables students to take coursework in one or more areas and “create an individualized plan of study,” says the school. AR/VR coursework includes Augmented Reality, Collaborative Virtual and Augmented Environments, Product Development Using Virtual Environments, Virtual Environments, Cognition & Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Special Topics In Human-Centered Design And Development, Computer Graphics Programming, and Advanced Real-Time Computer Graphics.
Students will also complete several projects including Computer Graphics Project, Directed MS Capstone, and Directed MS Project.
Graduates of the MS CGT Program are prepared to seek careers in all sectors that utilize Virtual and Augmented Reality. Graduates have been hired at DreamWorks, Google, Deloitte, Salesforce, and more.
21. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University (OSU) was founded on March 22, 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. Today, OSU offers programs in all areas across 18 colleges and schools. The school houses 200 academic centers and institutes and nearly 68,000 students across all campuses.
The College of Arts and Sciences at OSU houses the Department of Design, which offers an MFA in Design with Digital Animation and Interactive Media (DAIM) Track. Also housed in the College of Arts and Design is the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
ACCAD is a “is creative hub for scholars and practitioners of digital arts and sciences,” says the school. The Center conducts “research centered on the use and integration of emerging arts technologies,” in a “generous physical space, complemented by specialized and flexible studios for animation, motion capture, interactive design, media production and mediated performance design.”
In addition to having access to the ACCAD, DAIM students have the opportunity to take 12 studio elective credits that “provide hands-on experiences.” The 60 credit hour program includes core design courses, open electives in the themes of studio/lab, history/theory/criticism, and collaborative/interdisciplinary studio, writing development, and a thesis project. Areas covered include real time graphics and virtual environments, performance animation, game art, responsive and interactive media, and installations, to name a few.
Students in the program will “work closely with a three-person thesis committee to develop their thesis topics and the vehicles best used for their development.”
Graduates of the MFA DAIM Program hold positions such as Augmented Reality Designer, Mixed Reality Designer, Virtual Reality Designer, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Designer, Interaction Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, Game Designer, Experiential Designer, Multimedia Designer, CG Generalist or Specialist, Visualization Specialists, and many others.
22. Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey
Rowan University began as a teacher preparation college in 1923. Now a regional university, Rowan serves more than 18,000 students enrolled in more than 80 bachelor's and 60 master's degree programs, five doctoral programs, and two professional programs in 14 colleges and schools. The College of Science and Mathematics at Rowan University houses the Computer Science Department, which has curricular offerings in computing disciplines such as virtual reality, computer game design, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technologies, mobile development, cyber security, big data, cloud computing, parallel processing, bioinformatics, database systems, and others.
Pathways for students interested in AR/VR include BS and MS degrees in Computer Science. Department course highlight include Programming Languages, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Robotics, AI, Systems Simulation and Modeling, Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Computer Animation, Game Design and Development, Software Engineering, Mobile Programming, and Principles of Digital Computers. Students will complete an Independent Study course and Senior Project, and they have the opportunity to complete Computer Field Experience consisting of three to 12 credits.
In addition to offering a large number of course options for students interested in AR/VR, the Computer Science Department supports “student-centric initiatives” such as learning assistants, summer internships, long-term co-op programs, and student mentoring. The Computer Science Department also works with the Rowan VR Center to provide an environment where the University’s students and faculty and community, nonprofit, government, and corporate clients can work together to create “innovative virtual reality and augmented reality applications.”
Projects have included the Cold Spray VR Training System, 3D Medical Viewer, Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle Simulation, FAA Visualizing Drones, and The Rite (an original immersive video game), to name a few.
The custom-designed immersive lab has a “7-foot-high by 40-foot-wide curved wall of screens,” room for up to 25 people to work together on 3-D applications, and an “array of virtual reality and augmented reality head-mounted systems and 3-D printers.” This enables the Lab to offer services to clients in academia, government and industry such virtual reality consultations, virtual reality educational seminars, and 3-D printing, scanning and prototyping.
Graduates of the Computer Science Programs at Rowan end up working for industry leaders and top government organization such as Amazon, Symantec, Lockheed Martin, ASRC Federal Mission Solution, Federal Aviation Administration, US Navy, FBI, Comcast, SAP, IDT, Raytheon, and many others.
23. Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio
Wright State University serves 12,000 students annually and offers 315 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional degree programs through five colleges and two schools. Originally founded as a branch campus of The Ohio State University and named in honor of Wilbur and Orville Wright—inventors of the world's first successful motor-operated airplane—Wright State University became an independent institution in 1967 and Ohio's 12th state-assisted university.
The College of Engineering and Computer Science at Wright State houses the Department of Computer Science in Engineering, which has several program options for students interested in AR/VR. Pathways include BA/ BS, and MS Degrees in Computer Science (CS). A CS Minor is also available.
Students in all programs are encouraged to take advantage of study abroad, co-op/internships, and/or service learning. BA and BS students may also engage in undergraduate research. Department course highlights include Augmented and Virtual Reality, 3D Modeling and Computer Animation, Scientific Visualization and Virtual Environment, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Applied Machine Learning, Game Programming, Medical Image Analysis and Visualization, Pattern Recognition, Computer Graphics, C++ Programming for Scientists and Engineers, Computer Engineering, Digital System Design Laboratory, Object-Oriented Programming and Design, Advanced Robotics Laboratory, and Mobile Computing.
In addition to a wide variety of courses related to AR/VR, CS students have access to The Advanced Visual Data Analysis (AViDA) Group and the Virtual Environment Research, Interactive Technology, And Simulation (VERITAS) Facility.
The AViDA Group conducts research and supports the community in the areas of Virtual Environments, Medical Imaging and Visualization, Scientific Visualization, Information Visualization and Analysis, and Big Data Analysis, to name a few. The Group runs the Appenzeller Visualization Laboratory—a state-of-the-art visualization facility that supports large-scale visualization along with fully immersive, virtual reality equipment. In addition, AViDA houses facilities for running full-scale virtual environments using a variety of equipment ranging from head-mounted displays to walkable CAVE-type displays.
The VERITAS Facility is part of the College of Science and Mathematics’ Department of Psychology. Owned and operated by Wright State University and housed in the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, the Facility supports basic and applied scientific research on sensory systems, virtual environments, aviation, telerobotics, and teleconferencing. The space house a CAVE system, high-performance projectors, and more.
Wright State University CS graduates go on to pursue careers in AR/VR (in many sectors), as well as Digital Design, Applications Development, Software Development, Machine Learning, Data Science, Hardware Design, Software Engineering, Design Engineering, Java Development, Programming, and more.
Graduates are employed by the Air Force Institute of Technology, Air Force Research Laboratory, Assured Information Security, Ball Aerospace, Cerner Corporation, Clear Creek Applied Technologies, Department of Defense, CDO Technologies, LexisNexis, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, The Design Knowledge Company, Northrup Grumman, Siemens, and Teradata, to name a few.
24. University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado
The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) was established in 1876. The school serves 34,975 students enrolled in hundreds of programs in nine colleges and schools. Among CU Boulder’s many programs are several undergraduate and graduate options that allow students to study Augmented and Virtual Reality.
Awarded through the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the BS and Minor Programs in Creative Technology and Design (CTD) offer “a broad, transdisciplinary curriculum that integrates technological skills with a critical, theoretical and historical understanding of creativity, technology and design,” says the school. The BS Creative Technology & Design (BS-CTD) requires 128-130 credit hours of study and the Minor requires 21 credit hours.
BS-CTD students may choose a focus area through elective offerings. Areas include Augmented and Virtual Reality, Interactive Computing, Game Design, Robotics, Physical Computing, Sound Design, User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX), and more. Other program highlights include creative projects, regular professional development opportunities, workshops and guest speakers, internships with industry partners, employment in the CTD research and student labs, and portfolio development.
To complete the major, BS-CDT students take a two-semester Capstone sequence where they produce one major culminating project.
The College of Engineering and Applied Science also offers an MS in CTD with a Creative Industries Track. The project-based curriculum allows students to construct their own focus area. Some popular options include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Interactive Product Design and Development, Game Design and Development, Arts and Media Production, UI/UX, and Learning and Education. “Through workshops, visiting speakers, studios and classes,” MS students also have the opportunity to “work directly with leading professionals on real-world issues, gaining design expertise and technical skills as they learn the business of creativity.”
All CTD programs are housed within the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS) Institute, with core courses taught in the Roser ATLAS Center.
Founded in 1998, the ATLAS Institute also houses a number of labs and centers designed to support student work on independent projects. Current labs and centers include ACME Lab, Living Matter Lab, THING Lab, Unstable Design Lab, Laboratory for Emergent Nanomaterials, Center for Media, Arts & Performance, BTU Lab, and Whaaat!? Lab. Past projects include AR Drum Circle, Augmented Reality and Autonomous Systems (ARIAS), Augmented Reality Informs Human-Robot Interaction, Augmented Reality Remote Assistance (ARRA), Haptic VR Wizard, Biolage Reactor, and Jam Station, to name a few.
CTD graduates work in a variety of areas in Art and Entertainment, Technology, Education, Healthcare, Sciences, and more. MS graduates also work in Research in all industries and Government.
25. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
Chartered in 1869, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is the oldest institution in the University of Nebraska System. Serving more than 25,000 students, UNL is also the largest in the System. The school offers hundreds of programs in 10 colleges and dozens of departments.
The Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, which houses the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. Program options for students interested in AR/VR include a BFA in Emerging Media Arts (BFA-EMA). Students must select two emphasis areas totaling 24 credit hours, an interdisciplinary concentration, and 27 credit hours of electives.
Popular emphasis options for AR/VR students include Immersive and Interactive Media, Virtual Production, Experience Design, and Sensory Media. In the Immersive and Interactive Media Emphasis, students will create interactive and immersive media such as virtual and augmented realities, interactive and immersive environments, chat bots, Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice assistants, games, and the Internet of Things, which includes technologies such as smart home automation.
In Virtual Production, students create animations, graphics, and 3D models. In Experience Design, students design “projects and experiences that synthesize the virtual and the real,” says the school. Sensory Media covers physical computing, wearable technologies, human computer interaction (HCI), and hardware and software.
BFA-EMA students will also spend two semesters each in five studio and lab courses including the Visual Expression Studio, Computation and Media Studio, Innovation Studio, Story Lab, and Sound Lab. Other program highlights include an Entrepreneurship course from the College of Business that introduces students to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and business creation, and a yearlong Capstone Project that allows students to work in teams to “develop, create, organize, prototype, and complete a fully realized work ready for distribution via appropriate media.”
Graduates of the BFA-EMA are Virtual Reality Designers, Creative Technologists, Innovation Designers, App Designers, and Theme Park Experience Design. They work in Wearables/Physical Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Sound Design, Robotics, Game Design, Film Visual Effects, Film Production Design, Animation, and more.