72 Hours of Virtual Reality Fun

Colorado State University

Kenny Gruchalla, Computational Science Center Lead at NREL speaks at the Virtual Reality Symposium, Oct. 21.

Last week, Colorado State University teamed with virtual reality enthusiasts as the Office of the Vice President of Research kicked off a weekend devoted to exploring Virtual and Augmented Reality. On Friday morning, thought leaders from industry, academia and government came together to discuss the scientific, technologic and sociologic opportunities for augmented and virtual reality. Speakers included William Warren, Vice President and Head of Innovation Programs & Networks at Sanofi Pasteur; Kenny Gruchalla , Computational Science Center Lead at NREL; Winifred Newman, Head of Department of Architecture at the University of Arkansan; Paul Martin, Distinguished Technologist for Hewlett-Packard and Adam Russell, Program Manager at DARPA. The diverse audience of 14 to 75 year olds and 25 Poudre School District science and technology teachers enjoyed a panel discussion on key issues and the unveiling of the new CSU Immersive Experience narrated by Tony Frank.

The events rolled on into Friday evening when the Virtual Reality Hackathon was launched with 40 participants and more than 20 volunteers, mentors, and faculty. The event was sponsored by HP, NVIDIA, Mechdyne and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Eight diverse teams of computer scientists, biologists, psychologists, artists, design, engineers and hobbyists competed for cash prizes for best immersive experiences. An art competition ran alongside the teams using a Virtual Art program TiltBrush. Participants were given the latest equipment including HTC-VIVE, Occulus, Hololens and access to a Mechdyne cave. The competition was judged by the symposium speakers with the addition of Sharif Razzaque, Chief Engineer of Imaging at Medtronic; Alan Rudolph, Vice President for Research at Colorado State University and Cyane Tornatzy, Professor of Electronic Art Colorado State University.


Team Human.ly awarded 1st place at the CSU Virtual Reality Hackathon.

Forty eight hours later, after many doughnuts and a lot of coffee, the judges awarded $1000 first prize went to Team Human.ly which produced a mixed reality dynamic anatomical model superimposed over a moving person. Second place went to Team Savage that created a therapeutic immersive experience that helped people overcome crowd phobias by asking them to move through a crowd based on principles in cognitive therapy. Third place went to Team No Name (no joke) that placed you in an immersive dynamic neuronal circuit of the brain. Rachel Stern won the virtual art competition for her work entitled “The Tree”. A complete list of the winners on each team and other pictures and videos can be found on CSU Source.

The weekend highlighted the transformative power of the perceptive revolution that virtual and augmented reality could bring to our society and all aspects of the CSU land grant mission. We had visitors and participants from the VR community, industry representatives, high and middle schoolers, alumni groups, and graduate fellowship programs. Many of the participants had no experience in VR and yet were able to learn about it and in some cases they created powerful experiences with impact across a wide sector space including health, education, art, science, design, and engineering. The hackathon will help propel the next phases of the VR campus activities with the creation of portals around campus made available for further explorations in the virtual and real worlds.