UCI Goes Into The Metaverse

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    The University of California, Irvine is expanding its research efforts into the virtual realm.
    The second-largest university in OC by student population has partnered with Iowa-based VR education startup VictoryXR to transform UCI into a “metaversity.”

    VirtualXR provided UCI with a virtual twin build built on the EngageVR platform as part of the partnership, allowing students to attend classes in an immersive virtual replica of campus.

    UCI held a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 2 to celebrate the launch of the Paul Merage Business School’s digital twin.

    Ian Williamson, dean of the Merage School of Business, said the digital twin will allow UCI to host more engagement opportunities for prospective students, international students and corporate partners.

    “One of the visions we have for this type of technology is to go beyond Irvine and California and provide access to UCI’s world-class education from anywhere in the world,” Williamson he said at the ceremony.

    Irvine is the only school within the UC system to join VictoryXR’s Meta Cohort and is the first 15 U.S. universities to embrace digital twin metaversity and teach classes on the metaverse.

    Meta Platforms Inc. (Nasdaq: META) announced last month that it would supply universities with $300 Meta Quest 2 headsets for Metaverse classes.

    With support from the Office of Data and Information Technology, UCI alumnus Keri Albers, who graduated as a fellow this year, led the effort at UCI and hired business lecturer Larry Wilk to lead the class.

    to the metaverse

    Into the Metaverse will begin instruction this fall and will be led by Wilke, who has more than 20 years of experience integrating new technologies at the Walt Disney Company.

    This class focuses on the metaverse’s place in an evolving industry and expands on another class Wilk taught about the future of digital technology.

    “When the next version of generative AI comes out, we want our students to be in their shoes, developing frameworks, evaluating the technology, and understanding its value to companies.” Wilke told the Business Journal.

    Students examined case studies within the Metaverse and explored various brands that have already adopted the Metaverse, such as Nike, which partnered with Roblox to create Nikeland, an immersive virtual environment modeled after the Metaverse. I also had the opportunity to give a presentation in front of guest speakers. Nike’s real headquarters with gaming and digital showroom.

    Albers was first approached by Tom Andriola, vice provost for information technology and data, to research ways to integrate the metaverse into the classroom while she was still a data and technology fellow at UCI.

    After learning of VictoryXR’s Metaversity initiative, Albers worked with multiple departments to bring UCI into Meta’s university cohort and begin Metaversity classes this fall.

    Albers and Wilke worked with Dean Williamson to make the classes as accessible as possible.
    All 40 students who registered received a free headset from Meta. Mr. Albers also partnered with T-Mobile US Inc. to provide students with a mobile hotspot that they can use at home if they do not have sufficient Wi-Fi access.

    The future of VR

    According to a VictoryXR press release, the Metaversity effort was funded in part by the Meta Immersive Learning project.

    Meta announced last year that it would invest $150 million to create 10 Metaversities, and is now expanding to include five more universities.

    CEO Mark Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook as Meta in 2021, embracing the company’s shift in focus from social media to mixed virtual reality.

    Zuckerberg is betting on the Metaverse to be the future of technology, but it continues to cost the company money.

    On October 25, 2021, he announced that Meta plans to invest at least $10 billion in its Metaverse division, Reality Labs, to make Metaverse the next big thing.

    In 2014, Facebook paid $2.3 billion for Palmer Lackey’s Irvine-based Oculus VR in one of its first moves in that effort.

    Meta announced its third quarter results on October 25th, reporting that its Reality Labs division posted a loss of $3.7 billion.

    The company expects operating losses to increase through 2024 due to “continued product development efforts,” the report said.

    Meta recently launched the Quest 3 headset starting at $499.99 early last month.

    That same month, Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses hit retail stores.

    Meta has teamed up with EssilorLuxottica Société anonyme to launch a collection featuring live streaming capabilities and the first eyewear with built-in Meta artificial intelligence.


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