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Carnegie Mellon Launches New XR Technology Center

The new Extended Reality Technology Center will bring together researchers from computer science, engineering, IT, fine arts and humanities departments to create new technology and curricula.

Carnegie Mellon
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) recently launched a new research center focusing on the development of new extended reality (XR) technologies that might transform industries like education and health care.

According to a news release, Carnegie Mellon’s Extended Reality Technology Center (XRTC) will be a focal point for collaborative research with tech companies involved in XR technology, and aims to create a curriculum plan for training the next generation of XR tech developers.

"XR technologies will allow us to mix the digital world and the real world in ways that will improve how we work, play, learn, connect and care for ourselves and others," Fernando De La Torre, a co-director of the XRTC and an associate research professor in the Robotics Institute, said in a public statement. "This is happening now. The technology is not yet mature, but the breakthrough is going to happen in the next five to 10 years, and CMU will be there when it happens."

Some Carnegie Mellon researchers predict that XR technologies will soon be embedded in, or even replace, smartphones, laptops, tablets and other commonly used devices for a variety of tasks and applications. The news release said recent advances in AR/VR hardware like XR headsets and haptic gloves could help connect doctors and patients thousands of miles apart and better engage students in both K-12 and higher education.

The XRTC will be led by co-directors De La Torre, Kris Kitani and David Lindlbauer of the School of Computer Science (SCS), and will bring together researchers from across the university in the College of Engineering, Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, College of Fine Arts, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, CMU Libraries, and Entertainment Technology Center. The center's work will be based at the new Robotics Innovation Center at Hazelwood Green.

"CMU has dozens of faculty and hundreds of students pushing boundaries in all the areas needed for extended reality technologies to be successful. It's unlikely another university in the United States or in the world has this many people working on this technology," said David Lindlbauer, an assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, said in a public statement. "We have the expertise. We just needed to bring this expertise together, and the XRTC does that."

According to the news release, founding partner companies including PNC and Fujitsu are supporting the launch, as they're looking to make more use of XR tools for daily business operations and customer interactions.

"Virtual reality has so many potential applications and is such an exciting space for those of us at PNC interested in the 'art of the possible,'" Michael Degnan, head of enterprise innovation at PNC, said in a public statement. "As part of our ongoing efforts to work collaboratively with CMU to advance our headquarters city of Pittsburgh as a center of technological innovation, we see this investment in the XRTC as the establishment of a new, regional space for discovery that will help many."

The announcement noted that Fujitsu and CMU have already collaborated on projects to use social XR technology that aims to make cities more sustainable in the future and to spur breakthroughs in 3D structuring technology that could be used to improve simulation analysis and create avatars.

"Fujitsu has been thinking about how to utilize digital space for people to work more effectively. While keeping up overall productivity, the individual's engagement level should be taken care of as well in the digital workplace. We're excited about joining the XRTC community to explore technologies and partnerships toward this vision," Naoki Matsuoka, a project director in Fujitsu Research's Converging Technologies Laboratory, said in a public statement.

The announcement said the center held its first XRTC Symposium last month, where attendees learned about the latest developments and research in XR technology.

"The XRTC Symposium was a great opportunity to see the kind of XR work already happening at CMU and to demonstrate that work to potential sponsors and future collaborators," Kitani, an associate research professor in the Robotics Institute, said in a public statement. "We've only recently launched and the excitement is already building."