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University of Maryland plans AR/VR innovation center

UMD received a $500,000 federal grant for the project. The effort will include collaboration with startups and Baltimore universities.

BaltiVirtual demo at GDG Baltimore. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The University of Maryland College Park received a $500,000 federal grant that will help align efforts around developing immersive media.
With the award from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Authority’s i6 Challenge competition, the university is planning to launch the Mixed/Augmented/Virtual Reality Innovation Center (MAVRIC). According to a press release, it’s intending to “aggregate and accelerate” research and training in those areas throughout the region.
“Innovation is a significant driver of growth for the U.S. economy, and immersive media technology is poised to disrupt several key industries,” Julie Lenzer, a leader in Maryland innovation circles who became UMD Associate Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development last year and is principal investigator for MAVRIC. The center, she said, “is well-positioned to emerge as the East Coast hub of immersive media, and we will power that drive with a community-based, collaborative approach to commercializing these technologies.”
In terms of existing assets to build on, UMD itself has an Augmentarium and Virtual Reality Cave. Additionally, plans are in place for more infrastructure with a new six-floor computer science and technology center named after Oculus cofounder and UMD alum Brendan Iribe.
MAVRIC’s team is also looking off campus. They are planning to extend partnerships with Morgan State University and Coppin State University, and tap into startups and businesses using the technology in the region.
According to the release, the center will focus efforts on three areas: media, simulation and training, and arts and entertainments.
There are signs of a groundswell in virtual and augmented reality throughout the area. As we’ve seen with other tech ecosystems, a central spot to align those efforts could help forge new growth.


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