Carnegie Mellon’s ‘Extended Reality’ Push

Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University has launched its new Extended Reality Technology Center (XRTC) that aims to accelerate research and development of augmented and virtual reality technologies and speed their adoption in industry and society.

The new center, the university said, “will drive the development of extended reality (XR) technologies, create a curriculum to train the next generation of XR talent, and encourage consumers to participate in its design and ultimately use the new tools.”

Key applications for extended reality tech include health care, industrial training, entertainment, and communication, among others.

“Headsets and haptic gloves could connect doctors and patients thousands of miles apart in a virtual hospital,” the university said. “Sensors could monitor someone’s health or help teachers know if their students are paying attention. Scanners could allow objects from a person’s home to appear in their favorite video game. Glasses could help people with visual impairments navigate the world around them.”

Going forward, extended reality technologies “have the potential to complement or replace smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices for many tasks,” said Carnegie Mellon, which called XR tech a “natural next step in the evolution of computing.”

Leading the XRTC effort will be co-directors Fernando De La Torre, Kris Kitani, and David Lindlbauer, who are all part of the faculty at Carnegie-Mellon’s School of Computer Science. The center will also incorporate researchers from the university’s colleges of engineering, information systems and public policy, fine arts, humanities and social sciences, and Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center.

“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,” said De La Torre. “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.”

“CMU has dozens of faculty and hundreds of students pushing boundaries in all the areas needed for extended reality technologies to be successful,” added Lindlbauer.

“It’s unlikely another university in the United States or in the world has this many people working on this technology,” he said, adding, “we have the expertise. We just needed to bring this expertise together, and the XRTC does that.”

The new center is also launching with support from founding sponsors PNC and Fujitsu, which Carnegie Mellon said are companies that “see XR technologies as transformative to their businesses and customer interactions.”

Going forward, the new center is planning annual symposiums to share extended reality research and development advances, along with demo days and outreach workshops.