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For the first time in over a year, the Central Florida VR/AR Association (VRARA) held an in-person gathering last on Sept. 9 at the Central Florida Tech Grove. With an impressive number of participants – both in-person and online, coupled with a handful of demonstrations from various student groups and companies, the night surely was a success, and set a precedent for the upcoming events that were announced that evening.

“This was an important event as it was the first time in a year and a half that we could meet face to face,” said John Cunningham, president of the Central Florida VRARA chapter. “Over 210 people registered for the meeting with about 75 coming in person and over 60 joining virtually.”

The evening’s presentations were centered around extended reality, or XR, which incorporates the technologies of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality. The speakers from Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD), Dr. Cheryl Johnson and Erik Peterson, discussed how their individual departments work to improve XR based training.

Unlike VR and AR, XR focuses on the learner, not the tech.

NAWCTSD’s goal is to spend less time teaching learners how to navigate in virtual or augmented reality by using real world tools in these simulated spaces as opposed to controllers as one would use in a video-game.

While the conversations and demonstrations were remarkable, research in XR continues. Researchers, like those at STRIKE Lab, are still determining what tasks require XR training, as well as looking into why XR benefits learners. XR still has limitations, and those at Marine Corps Systems Command are still looking to determine the return on investment, and if this technology truly solves the problems faced in older methods of virtual training.

All of the companies in the VR/AR Association are working together to find these answers and continue developing technology, and for one am looking forward to seeing how XR grows. “I am so excited about how our community is so engaged and active with the VRARA,” said Cunningham. “We are the largest chapter in the VR/AR Association globally with over 45 company members! Central Florida is getting recognized as growing leader in the XR industry and it has a lot to do with our chapter activity”

At the event, it was announced that Red 6 moved to Orlando, and joined the local chapter of the VRARA. Also Indienomicon – the show runners behind the Indie Galactic Space Jam –  will be putting on the first ever Armed Forces Jam at the Central Florida Tech Grove. This event is intended to run up to the annual I/ITSEC conference, and can support up to 12 teams. Indienomicon intends to “bring together game developers and the defense industry [in] the ultimate creative collaboration.”

The launch party for this event is Nov. 4 with the event running from Nov. 5 -7. Corporate sponsors who are interested in adopting a team are needed, and attendance information is available here.

Written by Christa Yates

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