Recently, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded the University of Maryland $500,000 to launch the Mixed / Augmented / Virtual Reality Innovation Center (MAVRIC). MAVRIC will connect the university’s world-class research expertise and state-of-the-art facilities with the assets of academic, public sector, and corporate partners in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX) is proud to support MAVRIC with its robust research and technology infrastructure. With a strong foundation in place, MAVRIC is poised to become the east coast hub of immersive media.UMD Awarded U.S. Department of Commerce Grant to Launch Immersive Media Innovation Ecosystem
From catching Pokémon in the real world to donning a virtual reality headset to see and feel what it was like to scale the Berlin Wall before its fall, advancements in immersive media have set the stage for the next digital revolution. The University of Maryland will lead this revolution with the launch of the Mixed/Augmented/Virtual Reality Innovation Center, called MAVRIC, which has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA).
“We are already leaders in this dynamic, growing field, and the project promises to make our entire region a national hot spot for immersive media development,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “It will become an economic and technological boon to Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.”
Co-funded by the university and the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program i6 Challenge Grant award, MAVRIC will build on university assets such as the new Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, as well as other relevant assets across the region. The center will aggregate and accelerate the research and training capabilities of universities in region, the direct needs and projects of the corporate and public sector, and the innovation engine of startup and small businesses to advance mixed, augmented, and virtual reality technologies in three select verticals: media, simulation and training, and arts and entertainment.
Immersive media is used to describe virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. Many industries are using immersive media as the next iteration of their business, as evident in the surge of 3-D video and virtual reality use in industries other than gaming. For example, immersive media has the potential to change the way viewers experience the news, a movie, or a sporting event. Beyond media and entertainment, immersive media technology is being used to transform training for medical clinicians, manufacturing operators, military, and public safety professionals.
UMD is home to a robust research and technology infrastructure to support MAVRIC, including the Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX), which provides high-speed access and cutting-edge network capabilities; the Augmentarium, an interactive computer visualization lab; the Virtual Reality Cave, which is used to advance the integration of wearables and sensors, and study human performance and human error within high-stress situations; and the forthcoming Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation(link is external), which will feature six floors of specialized labs to support groundbreaking research in virtual and augmented reality, 360-degree video, artificial intelligence, robotics, computer vision, algorithms, programming languages and systems.
“Innovation is a significant driver of growth for the U.S. economy, and immersive media technology is poised to disrupt several key industries,” said UMD Associate Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development and MAVRIC Principal Investigator Julie Lenzer. “MAVRIC is well-positioned to emerge as the east coast hub of immersive media, and we will power that drive with a community-based, collaborative approach to commercializing these technologies.”
The center also aims to ensure a strong pipeline of diverse talent in the region. To stock this pipeline, the center will partner with higher education institutions such as Morgan State University and Coppin State University to promote and support school-based and community special interest clubs related to the field to harness the creativity of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) students in underserved urban and rural communities. Additionally, MAVRIC will partner with the university and local businesses to shape the creation of a new immersive media curriculum to prepare graduates for jobs in the field.
“MAVRIC will foster the development of immersive media technologies by building a network of influencers and executive champions, supporting the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups, and providing the strategic support needed to build a successful technology cluster,” said MAVRIC Program Director Lucien Parsons.
In addition to Lenzer and Parsons, the MAVRIC team includes collaborators UMD Interim Vice President for Research and Professor of Computer Science Amitabh Varshney and Philip Merrill College of Journalism Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Master’s Program Director Rafael Lorente. Associate Professor of American Studies Sheri Parks serves as MAVRIC’s community engagement liaison.
Externally, the team was able to collect a record 54 support letters from regional and national stakeholders. Interest and support was offered from investors, other universities, and the state as well as private sector companies of all sizes, from startups to multi-national corporations.
The i6 Challenge grant was awarded through the Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program, a national and highly competitive program which is led by the EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The i6 Challenge competition fosters the development of centers for innovation and entrepreneurship that accelerate the commercialization of innovations and ideas into companies, jobs, products, and services.
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Scientific frontiers and research collaborations will drive the requirements for a national research platform, and members of The Quilt – regional Research and Education (R&E) networks – have a key role to play.
As campus connectors and trusted conveners in their geographies to engage the key stakeholders and create regional research platforms, R&E networks offer the technology infrastructure needed to support modern science. The Quilt is excited about its role in the national community to help scale a national research platform.
About 125 scientists and engineers gathered at Montana State University in August to plan for the technology infrastructure needed do it at the first National Research Platform (NRP) Workshop. The event was sponsored by the National Science Foundation through the Pacific Research Platform, Montana State University, and Quilt member CENIC.
This event focused on how to help modern researchers do their work efficiently and effectively while allowing the normal business of university campuses to continue.
The specific requirements of academic research are pushing the envelope of computer science, and software-driven networks are changing how scientists access computing, manage their data, and analyze their results. Technology leaders from all over the country met to discuss implementation strategies for the deployment of interoperable Science DMZs at a national scale – essentially building out a national big data superhighway. Workshop sessions were devoted to science-driver application researchers describing their needs for high-speed data transfer, including their successes and frustrations, and discussions primarily focused on requirements from the domain scientists and the networking architecture, policies, tools, and security necessary to deploy a 200-institution NRP.
The National Science Foundation funded a 5-year cooperative agreement for the Pacific Research Platform (PRP) to improve the end-to-end, high-speed networking data transfer capabilities in collaborative, big-data science among 20 institutions. As part of the PRP cooperative agreement, NSF requires that the ensemble of PRP technologies be extensible across other scientific domains and to other regional and national networks. In response to this requirement, the NRP Workshop solicited input from many multi-state networking organizations (The Quilt, Internet2, ESnet and others) on how the PRP model might further blossom.
The NRP is committed to facilitating the necessary social engineering among a diverse group of science, R&E network and IT leaders, as well as provide proven end-to-end networking. An effective national partnership will need cyberinfrastructure experts working with scientists at their interface and understanding the desired scientific outcomes, rather than viewing the technology as an end to itself. Identifying common functionality that can be leveraged between science applications to make the NRP partnership more efficient and effective and prioritize high-performance access to supercomputer centers is key.
Louis Fox of CENIC will provide a plenary discussion on the perspective of regional network’s role in supporting a regional research platform at this year’s Quilt Fall Member Meeting on Oct. 3-5 in Albuquerque, N.M. Follow the link for more event information and on social media use #QuiltinABQ.