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The XR Program From A Student Perspective

Published on: April 17, 2023

Colby Hope '25

The Extended Reality (XR) program offered by Husson University's School of Technology and Innovation offers students a gateway to the future. Learning in the state-of-the-art iEX Center, students in this program are trained in an array of cutting-edge technologies, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and extended reality (XR). Graduates from this program emerge ready to build careers in the fields of media, engineering, research, entertainment, and training.

Sounds good, right? 

It is, we assure you. But don't take our word for it. We spoke with Colby Hope, a second-year student in the XR program, to find out what drew him to the program, what he's learned, and how he plans to put that learning to use in the future. 

Read on to see what he had to say!


Finding His Way Forward with Digital Creation

"I have always been super inspired by technology," Colby says. A self-described "huge gamer," Colby started his college career as a health science student but was drawn to Husson's unique XR program. "Not a lot of universities have a program like this. The first time I put on a VR headset, I was completely blown away."

Interacting with this new technology, Colby saw a path forward. "The way that the internet's moving, I think virtual reality, augmented reality, and extended reality are going to be huge parts of the economic sphere moving forward. I think digital art is the future, and I would like to be a content creator in that future."


Learning the Foundations of XR and Collaboration

Though he's just in his second year of the XR program, Colby has already had the opportunity to work with a range of tools and technologies and dramatically expanded his skillset.

"We've been learning some basic 3D modeling in Vectorworks. We've also been working with our motion capture system and our virtual production system. And then, I've been doing some work with Blender on my own. The big thing for us as students in development has been using VR Simlab, which is a development platform for VR solutions that's really easy to get into," Colby explains. "We've been able to add to our skill level and be able to produce projects that actually have interactable elements in VR, which is really cool to be able to do with very little programming experience." 

In addition to getting hands-on experience with cutting technology and software, Colby also appreciates the opportunities he's had to collaborate with other students in the XR program as well as with students from other departments and disciplines. "It's been really cool to see our collaborations with other departments. I've been able to work on digital sets and integrate that with our film majors. It's great to work with that department."

In addition to working with the film department and Husson's New England School of Communications, Colby and his fellow XR majors have also had the opportunity to participate in ongoing collaborative efforts like Project Merv, which creates virtual sets and backdrops for student-driven television interview shows, and Project Cheers, which uses VR to simulate hospitality related environments for training purposes.

"I think a lot of things with these projects and with XR in general, it just involves so many different skills and talents. So that collaboration is really essential," Colby says. "It honestly wasn't something I expected coming into this. I thought it was going to be a lot more personal projects. But we absolutely need to utilize each other's specialties. It's a lot of fun, actually, and we have a tight-knit community because of that."

Aside from the opportunities to collaborate with his talented peers, Colby identifies learning the essential tools of XR as one of the most significant aspects of his time in the program. He explains: "I think a lot of XR development in the future is going to be done with the basic tools that we are learning now, like Unity and the Unreal Engine. I feel like the projects where we really get hands-on learning those tools have been the most important part of my time here. And I was surprised at the level of detail and depth that comes with just using even one aspect of a program. It's an incredible challenge, as well as the most exciting thing for me."


Building a Future in XR

Colby is already looking ahead to his final years in the XR program. "I would like to build applications that work on VR headsets, as well as on something like smartphones. Because, obviously, not everyone has a VR headset, but everybody has a cell phone. So I'm hoping to create a cross-platform experience." 

More importantly, Colby is confident that the skills he's developed in the XR program will set him up to excel in an XR career after graduation. "Based on what I've seen in the industry, I think I'll be well prepared, especially as I develop more of a coding background because that's what really allows you to create unique digital solutions. After my four years here, I think I'll have a very good understanding of how to do what I need to in terms of implementing projects for professional clients." 

 Thinking about what advice he'd share for a student interested in this field or program, Colby has a lot to offer. "I would advise someone to definitely spend some time doing a lot of learning on their own and figuring out what they think their specialty might be because there are so many different ways you can lead in this industry, whether it's 3D modeling or app development, or something else. I'd also advise somebody to get hands-on with free programs like Blender, and determine if it's something they enjoy doing because these tools can be complicated," he says. "If you find that this is something you love doing, then this is absolutely where you should be."

Interested in being part of this program? You can request more info or apply to Husson and the School of Technology today! 

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