VARJAM Showcase Highlights Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Technology

  • Marilyn Hightower demonstrates how the CSUN StrengthsQuest app works using a smart phone to a student during VARJAM. CSUN StrengthsQuest won first place for the augmented reality (AR) section. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • One of several judges sits through a virtual hike of Yosemite National Park's "4 Mile Trail" demonstrated by Miranda Taylor, the developer and creator of Adventures VR, the first place winner for the virtual reality (VR) section of the VARJAM competition. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • The winning student teams from the VARJAM competition, from left, first place in virtual reality Adventures VR, popular vote winner and third place in augmented reality Color Magic, and first place in augmented reality CSUN StrengthsQuest. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

California State University, Northridge students and faculty came together for the first time to experience the world of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) at the 2017 VARJAM competition in the Delmar T. Oviatt Library’s Jack and Florence Ferman Presentation Room on April 7.

During VARJAM, the 10 competing student teams demonstrated the VR and AR projects they have been working on since early March to fellow CSUN students, faculty and judges from various VR companies within the technology industry.

“It was great to see the VARJAM students consider such innovative and real-world applications for the use of virtual and augmented reality,” said Hilary Baker, CSUN vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

To qualify for a spot in the VARJAM competition, student teams from all majors were required to register for the event and attend the workshops before submitting a two-minute multimedia presentation explaining the basics of their projects.

The winning teams were selected based on the judges’ evaluations of the students’ creativity and innovation, the effective use of VR and AR technology and the multimedia presentation’s quality. Additionally, one student team was chosen based on an online popular vote via CSUN’s Portfolium, an electronic portfolio network for students and alumni.

Three teams were picked from both the VR and AR categories.

From the VR section, third place went to Classify, a new way to explore the CSUN campus and discover new options such as schedules, classes and events on campus. Second place went to CSUN 3D, which allows students and faculty to get to know the campus by exploring its areas and buildings without leaving their rooms. First place went to Adventure VR.

Adventure VR was developed and created by Miranda Taylor, an accounting major who wanted to help those with disabilities, the elderly and those who cannot venture outside to experience nature by bringing it to them.

“I love nature; it’s just something that’s so incredible and not everyone gets to experience it,” Taylor said. “I work with a child who has a mental disability and I was thinking about it: He’s never going to be able to go out into nature and really see what it’s like because of his condition. I might not be able to fix that for him, but if I can help other young children or individuals with disabilities experience nature … that’s something I wanted to do for people.”

From the AR section, third place went to Color Magic, an interactive coloring tool for children ages seven and older to enhance their learning experience through 3D models. Color Magic also won the popular vote. Second place went to GSTAR, a nutrition aide that allows users to input their health needs and scan grocery store aisles to find the best choices for them based on nutritional facts that appear on their phones in a visual graphic. First place went to CSUN StrengthsQuest.

CSUN StrengthsQuest was developed and created by a team of four CSUN students — Gabriel Almendarez, Gordon Greer, Marilyn Hightower and Guy Imberman. The team wanted to create a way for students and staff members to access advice on gaining confidence and motivation in their academic careers based on their strengths.

“Our inspiration was the psychological personality assessment called StrengthsQuest. It was created by the Gallup organization, and because we work at the Career Center, we are very close with that,” Hightower said. “We consulted career counselors about StrengthsQuest and used that information to create this app.”

Baker announced that each of the winning teams has the opportunity to attend two different conferences — The Future of a Virtual and Augmented World at Bixel Exchange on April 13 and the CSUN VARJAM Industry Forum at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on April 21.

The winning VARJAM teams will be featured at both events and have opportunities to meet with experts from Sony Pictures, Google, Applied-VR, Legend-3D and many more.

Check out all the VARJAM project submissions on Portfolium.

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