Maria C. R. Harrington Ph.D. is an American information scientist and artist. Research focus is on aesthetics in the perceptual ambient array and information science theory as it relates to beauty found in natural environments. Beauty as the most salient signal in the environment and design factor used to intentionally and deliberately trigger human exploration and inquiry is the focus. Using AR, VR, and GIS datasets, she investigates information fidelity as a design factor for informal learning, STEM educational and learning support activities in digital-twin models of nature. Such applications are used to investigate human computer environment interactions and impacts on perception, learning, health, and creativity. She is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media, in the Games and Interactive Media Program, Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida, and director of The Harrington Lab. She has run informal learning research projects with Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is a member of the editorial board of Springer Nature Journal, Virtual Reality, and is a recipient of an Epic MegaGrant award, the University of Central Florida Research Foundation GAP Fund Award, and several Museum and Web awards for the immersive learning products she has designed, created, and deployed.
The Harrington Lab at UCF investigates virtual nature, using AR and VR as a technical artifact, to better understand perceptual phenomenon as it relates to human-computing-environment interactions that cause emotional, learning, and aesthetic outcomes. The lab is highly collaborative with several active multidisciplinary partnerships.
- Find her publications on Google Scholar and ResearchGate.
- The Harrington Lab at UCF project page: https://virtualnature.org/
- Download software: https://the-harrington-lab.itch.io/
- Virtual nature as a data visualization and simulation in AR and VR as geo-spatial as digital twins
- Design factors of the human-computer environment interaction dynamics to investigate informal learning and STEM education
- Emergent, co-design, and co-creation activities
- Perception, emotion, cognition, and learning activities as responses to virtual nature
- Art and technology in both AR and VR as an aesthetic medium
- Ph.D. in Information Science from University of Pittsburgh (2008)
- M.S. in Information Science from University of Pittsburgh (1990)
- B.S. in Economics and Art from Carnegie Mellon University (1988)
Honors and Awards
- Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), Learner Engagement Division, 2021 Outstanding Digital Learning Artifact Award, 2021
- MW21 GLAMi Award 2021 Finalist in Resources for Scholars and Researchers Category, Museum and Web International Conference, 2021
- MW20 GLAMi Award 2020 Finalist in Exhibition Media or Experience: Immersive Media (AR/VR/Environmental), Museum and Web International Conference, 2020
- Research Associate, Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Invited). 2019
- Mentoring Program UCF’s Office of Research and Commercialization (Award) , 2017 2
Published Journal Articles (Peer-Reviewed)
- Harrington, Maria, C. R., Bledsoe, Z., Jones, C., Miller, J., Pring, T. ( 2021). Designing a Virtual Arboretum as an Immersive, Multimodal, Interactive, Data Visualization Virtual Field Trip. Multimodal Technologies and Interaction, 5(4), 18. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/mti5040018
- Harrington, Maria, C. R., Tatzgern, M. Langer T., Wenzel, J. W. (2019). Augmented Reality Brings the Real World into Natural History Dioramas with Data Visualizations and Bioacoustics at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Curator: The Museum Journal, 62(2), 177 – 193. First published in Wiley Online Library (April 19, 2019). https://doi.org/10.1111/cura.12308
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (2012). The Virtual Trillium Trail and the Empirical Effects of Freedom and Fidelity on Discovery-based Learning. Virtual Reality, 16(2), 105 – 120. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10055-011-0189-7
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (2011). Empirical Evidence of Priming, Transfer, Reinforcement, and Learning in the Real and Virtual Trillium Trails. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 4(2), 175 – 186. https://www.computer.org/csdl/journal/lt/2011/02/tlt2011020175/13rRUxjQyrq
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (2009). An Ethnographic Comparison of Real and Virtual Reality Field Trips to Trillium Trail: The Salamander Find as a Salient Event. In Freier, N.G. & Kahn, P.H. (Eds.), Children, Youth and Environments: Special Issue on Children in Technological Environments, 19(1), 74 – 101. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7721/chilyoutenvi.19.1.0074?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Published In Proceedings (Peer-Reviewed Conferences)
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (August, 2020). Augmented and Virtual Reality Application Design for Immersive Learning Research Using Virtual Nature: Making Knowledge Beautiful and Accessible with Information Fidelity. In Proceedings of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques Conference Talks (SIGGRAPH ’20 Talks), Virtual Event, USA, August 17, 2020; ACM: New York, NY, USA, 2 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3388767.3407318
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (June, 2020). Virtual Dioramas Transform Natural History Museum Exhibit Halls & Gardens to Life with Immersive AR. In Proceedings of ACM SIG CHI The ACM Interaction Design and Children (IDC) Conference 2020: Demos & Art Exhibition. London, UK. June 21 – 24, 2020: Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 276 – 279. https://doi.org/10.1145/3397617.3402036
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (June, 2020). Connecting User Experience to Learning in an Evaluation of an Immersive, Interactive, Multimodal Augmented Reality Virtual Diorama in a Natural History Museum & the Importance of Story. In Proceedings of the IEEE, iLRN 2020: 6th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network. San Luis Obispo, California. June 21 – 25, 2020. DOI: 10.23919/iLRN47897.2020.9155202 https://origin-ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9155202
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (March, 2020) Observation of Presence in an Ecologically Valid Ethnographic Study Using an Immersive Augmented Reality Virtual Diorama Application. In Proceedings of the 2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW), Atlanta, GA, USA (virtual), March 22 – 26, 2020; 813-814. DOI: 10.1109/VRW50115.2020.00257 https://origin-ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9090465
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (March, 2020). Augmented and Virtual Reality Dioramas and Arboretums for Museum XR Exhibition Engagement and Learning Design as a Lightning Talk. In Proceedings of the 24th Annual MuseWeb Conference MW20: MW 2020. Los Angeles, CA. March 31 – April 4, 2020. Harrington, Maria. Published March 28, 2020. Consulted March 28, 2020. https://mw20.museweb.net/proposal/augmented-and-virtual-reality-dioramas-and-arboretums-for-museum-xr-exhibition-engagement-and-learning-design/
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (April, 2019). Virtual Dioramas Inside and Outside Museums with the AR Perpetual Garden App. In Proceedings of the Annual MuseWeb conference MW19: MW 2019. Boston, MA. Published online February 14, 2019. Consulted March 13, 2019, April 2 – 6. https://mw19.mwconf.org/paper/virtual-dioramas-inside-and-outside-of-museums-with-the-ar-perpetual-garden-app
- Harrington, Maria C. R. (November 3 – 4, 2017). Ripples in a Pond: How Virtual Reality may be a Tool of Impact for the Humanities. In Proceedings of the HASTAC 2017, UCF, Orlando, FL.
- Portnoy, F., Smith, L., Harrington, Maria, C. R., Kremer, K., Nichols, T., & Zammitto, V. (September 19 – 23, 2011). Facing the Human Factors Challenges in Game Design: A Discussion Panel. In Proceedings from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 55(1), 520 – 524. Las Vegas, Nevada. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1071181311551106
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (May 13-15, 2011). The Virtual Trillium Trail — An Educational Simulation of the North American Forests. In Proceedings of the iED Summit: Immersive Education Initiative: Boston Summit 2011. Boston College, Boston, MA.
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (June 3 – 5, 2009). Meta-ontologies for Learning in Virtual and Augmented Realities. Presented at the ACM-SIGCHI IDC09: The 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children Workshop on Children and Mobile Technology: Interface Development for Mobile Touch Devices. Como, Italy.
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (March 10 – 13, 2008). A Demonstration of Virtual Trillium Trail, a Simulation of a Fourth Grade Field Trip to a Wildflower Reserve for Ecology Education. In Proceedings of the Open Learning Interplay Symposium 2008. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (July 30 – August 3, 2006). Situational Learning in Real and Virtual Space: Lessons Learned and Future Directions. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGGRAPH 2006 Educators program (SIGGRAPH ’06). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 48 – es. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/1179295.1179344
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (June 28, 2006). Trees of Life: Models of Children’s Creative Processes. In Proceedings of the ACM DIS 2006. State College, PA.
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (September 14 – 18, 2005). Virtual Beechwood: Simulated Ecological Environments for Education. In Proceedings of the Conference on Spatial Information Theory 2005. Ellicottville, New York.
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (January 22 – 25, 2018). Improving Psychophysical Well-being and Performance in Isolated, Confined, and Extreme Environments with Head Mounted Virtual Reality Photorealistic Simulations of Earth Based Natural Environments. In Proceedings of the 2018 NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop HRP RESEARCH: THE GATEWAY TO MARS, Galveston, TX.
- Larson, S. and Harrington, Maria, C. R. (November 1 – 4, 2012). A Survey of ABET Accredited, Information Systems, Undergraduate Programs in the USA. In Proceedings of the Information Systems Educators Conference (ISECON). New Orleans, Louisiana. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.296.7010
- Gennari, J., Harrington, Maria, C. R., Hughes, S., Manojlovich, M., & Spring, M. (June 15 – 17, 2003). Preparatory Observations on Ubiquitous Knowledge Environments: The Cyberinfrastructure Information Ether. In Proceedings from NSF Post Digital Library Futures Workshop. Chatham, MA.
- Harrington, Maria C. R. (August, 2021). “Virtual Nature.” ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques Conference 2021 Birds of a Feather (ACM SIGGRAPH 2021 BOF), Virtual Event, USA, August 9 – 13, 2021; ACM: New York, NY, USA. https://s2021.siggraph.org/presentation/?id=bof_136&sess=sess429
- Harrington, Maria C. R. (June 23, 2021). “Creating Immersive Augmented Reality Applications for Learning.” Serious Play 2021 Conference, Virtual Reality/Mobile: Cutting Edge Apps For Training, Education – Interactive Session. Virtual, June 23, 2021 (invited). https://www.seriousplayconf.com/2021-program/
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “Virtual Nature in AR, MR & VR, for Data Visualization, Learning & Decision Support.” Presented at the UCF ORC The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) Poster Session, Orlando, FL, June, 25, 2019 (invited).
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “AR and VR Virtual Nature Models Ideal for Informal Learning,” Presented at Serious Play 2019 Conference, UCF FIEA, Orlando, FL., July, 24 – 26, 2019.
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “Virtual Nature in Augmented reality and Virtual reality for Informal Learning in Museums and Arboretums.” Presented to the University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences. Pittsburgh, PA. Dec. 2018 (invited). https://pitt.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=4b0724b6-4309-4960-a27f-a9af01247fe8
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “Reality matters in virtual reality for learning sciences research: The Virtual Trillium Trail empirical data and future fMRI studies.” Presented to the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA; Pittsburgh, PA, April 2010 (invited). http://halley.exp.sis.pitt.edu/comet/presentColloquium.do?col_id=700
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “The Virtual Trillium Trail: The value of Freedom and Fidelity in the child-computer-environment interface.” Presented to the Carnegie Mellon Human-Computer Interaction Institute Seminar Series, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. September, 2008. https://hcii.cmu.edu/news/event/2008/09/virtual-trillium-trail-value-freedom-and-fidelity-child-computer-environment-interface
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “Simulated ecological environments for education: Past and future realities.” Presented to the Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA, Nov. 2008 (invited).
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “Tips and Tricks of Building Simulated Ecological Environments for Education: User Centered Design, Activity Analysis, Prototyping, and Techniques.” Presented to the Carnegie Mellon University, Entertainment Technology Center, Pittsburgh, PA, Oct. 2008 (invited).
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “The Virtual Trillium Trail: What if you could fly over your favorite park, and explore the ecosystem from any vantage point that you wished?” Presented to the Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, Fox Chapel, PA, July. 2008.
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “The Poetics of Games: Art, Poetry and Storytelling in Modern Game Design.” Presented to Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh, PA, Jan. 2008 (invited).
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “Virtual Trillium Trail and Opportunities for Education in Metaverses and Virtual Environments.” Presented to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Phipps Education Committee, Pittsburgh, PA, Nov. 2007 (invited).
- Harrington, Maria C. R. “Generating High Fidelity, 3D Computer Graphic Models from Transects and Plot Population Data for Trillium Trail.” University of Pittsburgh, Department of Biological Sciences: E&E Seminar, Pittsburgh, PA. Oct. 2007 (invited).
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (2017). EXHIBITION: SVAD Faculty 2017. Presented two works of computer art, “The Virtual Trillium Trail,” UCF Art Gallery, University of Central Florida, Aug. 2017
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. (2016). EXHIBITION: SVAD Faculty 2016. Presented two works of computer art, “The Virtual Trillium Trail,” UCF Art Gallery, University of Central Florida, Oct. 2016
- Harrington, Maria, C. R. LOST AND FOUND 2006. Garfield Artworks Art & Performance Space, Presented six works of computer art, and a multimedia collage, Pittsburgh, PA. Oct. 2006
News Media Coverage
Press Coverage with National or Economic Impact
- Iulia Popescu. (November 3, 2021). “U New AR and VR Content Pack Makes the Virtual World Bloom,” UCF Nicholson School of Communication and Media. Retrieved from https://communication.ucf.edu/new-ar-and-vr-content-pack-makes-the-virtual-world-bloom/
- O’Shea, Patrick. (May 9, 2021). “Versatilist with Maria Harrington.” The Versatilist published on Apple Podcasts. Retrieved from https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/versatilist-with-maria-harrington/id1016303356?i=1000521023510
- Canales, Jesse. (August 31, 2020). “UCF App Helps Those Isolated by Coronavirus Get Outdoors.” Spectrum News Channel 13 News. Retrieved from https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2020/08/31/ucf-professor-uses-app-to-help-those-dealing-with-stress-isolation#
- Kotala, Zenaida. (May 11, 2020). “Epic Games, maker of Fortnite, awards UCF professor grant to enhance AR and VR technology.” American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS ) EurekAlert! Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-05/uocf-egm051120.php
- Momich, Betsy. (Ed). (Spring 2019). “In Bloom.” CARNEGIE Magazine. 83 (1). p 8. https://carnegiemuseums.org/carnegie-magazine/spring-2019/seen-heard-spring-2019/
- Levere, Jane, L. (March, 12, 2019). “Meeting Old Masters, Rowing With Vikings – in Augmented Reality.” The New York Times, Arts. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/arts/augmented-reality-app-exhibits.html
- Daly, Jill. (December 26, 2018). “New Carnegie Museum app shows threat to wildflower diversity in the woods.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved from https://www.post-gazette.com/news/environment/2018/12/26/App-augmented-reality-carnegie-powdermill-woodland-diversity-deer-wildflowers/stories/201812130168?fbclid=IwAR3iO0_ZMy4tOXiayU-UPEUvZPEj9eNXB4OTSyiGMzFCpn-bs7oNCZYghEM
- Davis, Kathleen, J. (December 19, 2018). “Augmented Reality App Shows How Deer Overpopulation Affects Western PA’s Forests.” 90.5 WESA (Pittsburgh, PA, NPR). Retrieved from https://www.wesa.fm/post/augmented-reality-app-shows-how-deer-overpopulation-affects-western-pas-forests?fbclid=IwAR2Hhud6r0pN9GuFBR-Y8GmgSSxkKDlnC6ItO-ymIFhO8pesb4tArCWHQcU#stream/0
Press Coverage with Regional Impact
- Staff (July 16, 2021). “Virtual UCF Arboretum Expands Offering for Digital Game Designers.” UCF COS NEWS. Retrieved from https://sciences.ucf.edu/news/virtual-ucf-arboretum-expands-offerings-for-digital-game-designers /
- Iulia Popescu. (June 1, 2021). “Groundbreaking Work Provides Insight on Informal Learning.” UCF Nicholson School of Communication and Media. Retrieved from https://communication.ucf.edu/groundbreaking-work-provides-insight-on-informal-learning/
- Iulia Popescu. (April 1, 2021). “Virtual Nature: Making Knowledge Beautiful.” UCF Nicholson School of Communication and Media, Retrieved from https://communication.ucf.edu/virtual-nature-making-knowledge-beautiful
- Beebe, Kendall. (March 18, 2021). “The benefit of plants on mental health in a post—pandemic society.” NSM Today, Retrieved from http://www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com/news/the-benefit-of-plants-on-mental-health-in-a-post-pandemic-society/article_77435666-82e1-11eb-ab38-efd5a32108b8.html
- Kotala, Zenaida. (August 26, 2020). “UCF Offers Free Nature-themed VR and AR Applications to Help Students and Those Isolated Because of COVID-19.” UCF Today, Retrieved from https://www.ucf.edu/news/ucf-offers-free-nature-themed-vr-and-ar-applications-to-help-students-and-those-isolated-because-of-covid-19/
- Kotala, Zenaida. (May 11, 2020). “Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, Awards UCF Professor Grant to Enhance AR and VR Technology.” UCF Today, Retrieved from https://www.ucf.edu/news/epic-games-maker-of-fortnite-awards-ucf-professor-grant-to-enhance-ar-and-vr-technology/
- Giller, Jamie. (May 4, 2020). “Alumni Leading Virtual Reality: As an undergraduate student, Thomas Pring ’20 worked in two research labs to level up from gamer to virtual reality game designer.” UCF Today, Retrieved from https://www.ucf.edu/news/leading-virtual-reality/
- Smith, Heather. (December 6, 2018). “UCF Partners with Carnegie Museum on Augmented Reality App That Brings Gardens to Life.” UCF Today. Retrieved from https://today.ucf.edu/augmented-reality-app-brings-appalachian-wildflower-gardens-life-smartphones
- Martin, Kyle. (December 3, 2018). “The Virtual Arboretum Visits Coming Soon.” UCF COS NEWS. Retrieved from https://sciences.ucf.edu/news/virtual-arboretum-visits-coming-soon/?fbclid=IwAR34sfbIJuq8IrY0GVs8nlUHrmB2HvtfygUncLRfnX1TptIZpeLkL_39pgU
- Weisberg, Deborah. “Technology Comes to the Trillium Trail, One Woman’s Efforts Enhance both Education and the Environment.” Interviewed by The SHADY AVE, Spring 2015
- “The Virtual Trillium Trail, Explore a virtual forest to learn more about the natural world,” Remake Learning.com 2012. Retrieved from https://remakelearning.org/project/virtual-trillium-trail/
- INNOVATION & STARTUPS “Fox Chapel students hike the Trillium Trail virtually and in person,” POP City, Aug. 2012
- “Alumni Trailblazer, Maria C. R. Harrington,” Interviewed by Pitt Magazine, Imagine, Spring 2012
Creative Works as a Principal Investigator
- Harrington, Maria C. R., Bohlen, P., Beck, K., Bledsoe, Z., Jones, C., Miller, J., Pring, T., Elliott, J., Jarrett, R., Lindsay, A., and Guziejka, J. (2016-2018). The Virtual UCF Arboretum Project (Version 1.0).Unreal Game engine level complete October 2018. https://the-harrington-lab.itch.io/the-virtual-ucf-arboretum
- Harrington, Maria C. R., Bohlen, P., Beck, K., Bledsoe, Z., Jones, C., Miller, J., Pring, T., Elliott, J., Jarrett, R., Lindsay, A., and Guziejka, J. (2016-2018). The Virtual UCF Arboretum Project (Version 1.0).VR complete November 2018.
- Harrington, Maria C. R., Bohlen, P., Beck, K., Bledsoe, Z., Jones, C., Miller, J., Pring, T., Elliott, J., Jarrett, R., Lindsay, A., and Guziejka, J. (2016- 2018). The Virtual UCF Arboretum Project Website (Version 1.0) Launched October 2018. Available from UCF: https://arboretum.ucf.edu/virtual/
- Harrington, Maria C. R., Bohlen, P., Beck, K., Bledsoe, Z., Jones, C., Miller, J., Pring, T., Elliott, J., Jarrett, R., Lindsay, A., and Guziejka, J. (2016- 2018). The Virtual UCF Arboretum Project Website (Version 1.0) Launched January 2019. Published on PBS Learning Media https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/virtual-ucf-arboretum/virtual-ucf-arboretum/?fbclid=IwAR3Sur3GVnALQadQY1SLAOCrIIvxdMGBceGPcEOWG5nKjz8BzBI_Txa1oW4
- Harrington, Maria C. R., Wenzel, J. W., Tatzgern, M., Langer T., Oliver, M., Isaac, B., Guffey, A., Bledsoe, Z., Jones, C., Dinic, R., and Tiefengrabner, M. (2017-2018). The AR Perpetual Garden Apps. Published on Apple iTunes App Store (Version 1.2) Launched October 25, 2018. Available from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ar-perpetual-garden/id1438086490?mt=8
- Harrington, Maria C. R., Wenzel, J. W., Tatzgern, M., Langer T., Oliver, M., Isaac, B., Guffey, A., Bledsoe, Z., Jones, C. and Dinic, R. (2017-2018). The AR Perpetual Garden Apps. Published on Google Play Android Store (Version 6.6.6) Launched November 30, 2018. Available from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.carnegie.garden
- Harrington, Maria C. R., Wenzel, J. W., Oliver, M., Isaac, B., Guffey, A., Bledsoe, Z. and Jones, C. (2015-2017). The Virtual Garden Timeline Website. (Launch 2017. https://virtualgarden.powdermill.org/)