This week, TXADPR had the exciting privilege of speaking with Josh Ramirez: UT student, manager of the imagine lab (UT immersive lab), and leader of the imagine lab committee with Texas Immersive. Working closely with both Professor Reilly (director of innovation at UT) and the many students of the Texas Immersive program at UT, he has been vital to the program’s success.
The immersive lab is a hub for Texas Immersive students at UT. Can you explain a bit about this space and what it provides?
With virtual and augmented reality stations, computers stocked with a suite of apps, whiteboards galore and inspiration from a collection of our favorite new products and experiences, the Imagine Lab is here for all UT students to bring your ideas to life. Visit the Lab Demos Library (http://bit.ly/imaginelabdemos) to get a sense of what you could try out in and outside the Lab. It is a great place to try something new, so come curious! The Lab is our home for innovation and excitement. While we wait and see how our physical lab will be accommodated, we have the important opportunity to show off what we know about immersive by delivering it to the masses of students and faculty who may not be able to experience it in our lab otherwise. The Imagine Lab is more than fancy gadgetry — it’s a place to learn and grow as a hacker, entrepreneur and responsible thinker.
What is your role in the lab? Is this role something students can get involved with if they are interested?
I have been working in the Lab for well over a year now, so I work in a couple different roles beyond simply managing the Lab with our student committee. I am the tech evangelist of the Imagine Lab, so I am also constantly on the hunt for new things to bring inside! When I do find something interesting, I am always sure to add it to our Demo Library and test it out myself to share with others. So beyond researching (or as some might call it playing), I work with other student committees involved in MeetUps with innovators across the country, introducing more UT students and faculty with the world of immersive and the industry being built as we speak. Along with working on our monthly newsletter, I have found my passion for learning and teaching in this role in the Lab, and I would like to invite all who are interested in joining one of these student committees to reach out and let me know how we can work together. I believe this Lab can be a huge deal for UT, so what better opportunity for students who are simply curious!
Classes look a lot different this semester, with students learning mostly off-campus. How has the lab changed in response to remote learning this semester?
Where to begin? There are more and more platforms emerging every day since the world began to shift, and we may only have scratched the surface on what virtual worlds are the best design for what we have in mind. Mimicking the physical Imagine lab is not entirely the focus either. From Gather.town to VirBELA to Minecraft to High Fidelity there are many options we have explored and seen the benefits of as we rebuilt our community. Being virtual provides the opportunity to extend outside of reality and move in ways we otherwise would be limited to in CMA 6.154! Be on the lookout for our Lab Days where we will post where we will be virtually hanging out next!
Is there a way for interested students to “drop into the lab”, as they previously could, virtually? Also, what exciting things are you all working on now? Do you have any additional plans for the lab in the future?
As part of our journey online, be on the lookout for our virtual Lab Days— our signature livestreams to include the UT community in our explorations across the edges of the digital world. Also we can’t forget our Imagine MeetUps! Every second Wednesday of each month from 6-7 p.m., Texas Moody Innovation & Entrepreneurship comes together to connect the Austin Media Community with students and faculty at UT through exciting conversations and networking. At each MeetUp, there is ample time to discuss emerging technologies and topics that have impacted industries we interact with everyday, and to bring ideas of your own to discuss with others interested in the industry. Our next meetup, Imagine Tourism and AR/VR, is right around the corner, and we are looking forward to hosting our Lab Days soon — so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get our monthly schedule about all our events!