Associate Professor at the Digital Media and the Games and Interactive Media program, Dr. Maria Harrington, has had a busy semester advancing her research and traveling to share her professional insight at various speaking engagements. Some recent examples of her academic activities include winning the UCF In-Unit Research Incentive Award (RIA) and giving a keynote presentation at the IEEE VR XR Workshop in Orlando.  

The UCF In-Unit Research Incentive Award (RIA) program recognizes outstanding research, scholarly, or creative activity that advances the body of knowledge in a particular field, including interdisciplinary research and collaborations.  The Research Incentive Award recognizes in-unit employee contributions to UCF’s key goal of achieving international prominence in research and creative activities. Dr. Harrington’s primary area of research and creative activity is in the design, development, and evaluation of immersive informal learning applications of natural environments. “My research is transforming the way people perceive and understand the natural world mediated through a design practice that uses augmented and virtual reality technologies,” she said. 

Recently, Dr. Harrington presented her keynote presentation at the IEEE VR XR Workshop in Orlando. This workshop discusses and articulates research visions on using the latest extended reality (VR/AR/MR) technologies for gaming and entertainment, and on creating immersive 3D virtual content for XR gaming experiences. Dr. Harrington covered the design of a novel and innovative immersive-embodied application that is a virtual experience of wild Central Florida, The Virtual UCF Arboretum. Using ESRI data, Epic Games Unreal Engine 5, and a HTC VR headset combined with an Infinadeck Omnidirectional treadmill, virtual nature has been realized. Showing high presence, emotional reactions, exploration, inquiry, and learning outcomes, a review of experimental mixed-methods research study results on emotional and learning outcomes, support this design solution when semantic geospatial configurations are needed for transfer of learning in the virtual to the real use-cases. Also, you never run into a wall, so unlike a CAVE, VR headsets, or Desktops, this solution supports user activity that requires movement through very large outdoor environments. 


By Majdulina Hamed.

Published to Nicholson News on May 7th, 2024.

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