BYU taps into cutting-edge technology with new Mixed Reality Lab

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BYU opened a new Mixed Reality Lab in the Crabtree Building to help students gain hands-on experience. (BYU Photo)

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The future is here. BYU has tapped into cutting-edge technology with its new Mixed Reality Lab featuring augmented and virtual reality.

“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.

The lab is housed in the Crabtree Building by BYU’s information technology and cybersecurity programs. It is used for the design and prototyping of mixed reality experiences. BYU is one of the few universities in the nation to offer such a lab.

“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,” said Redfearn. “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.”

According to Redfearn, in an augmented reality experience, digital 3D objects are inserted into the real world. In virtual reality, the environment is completely digital.

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 sorts.

A student uses augmented reality glasses, which insert digital 3D objects into the real world. (BYU Photo)

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

IT and cybersecurity 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.”

IT and cybersecurity major Garrett Cook also works in the lab. Cook said the opportunity to be a part of the shift toward virtual reality is available to everyone.

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

In the Mixed Reality Lab, students get hands-on experience working with the top augmented and virtual reality technology from around the world. (BYU Photo)

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 program will have to do something related to this,” Redfearn said.

According to Redfearn, mixed reality is the future. 

“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.”

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