Fresno and Clovis students at The Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) were selected to test a new Microsoft VR headset. KSEE24‘s Megan Rupe explores how they were selected, how it works, and how these students are at the forefront of a revolution in gaming.


By MEGAN RUPE | February 6, 2017

It could dramatically change the way we use technology, and a group of local students are at the forefront of the revolution.

They’re from schools across Fresno and Clovis, and they attend the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART).

These 17 and 18-year-olds work on tech that isn’t even on the market, and it may not be for years.


CART wars demonstration of mixed reality

The students in the Interactive Game Design class at CART are designing video games, and now they’re testing out what’s called a “Hololens.” It could be the next big thing.

Technology is an integral part of our lives.

“I can’t go anywhere without my phone; I would cry,” said CART student Faith Blue.

Technology is all around us. Computers – home appliances – video games.

The young men and women at CART develop four projects per year; each one takes months to work on. They’re not just learning programming, but also technical skills combining art and math at levels which their teacher said some students may have never attempted otherwise.

The teachers at CART are using “Star Wars” to make that math exciting.

“... but if you say, ‘hey, let’s make some TIE fighters and blow them up with an X-wing,’ suddenly the product becomes fun,” said Matthew Hodge, CART Interactive Game Design teacher. “And you find you’re doing levels of math that you didn’t even think were capable of.”

The student’s current project ties in with their English requirement. They read a “Star Wars” novel, and now they’re designing gaming products to go along with it.

Droids to Jabba-the-Hutt themed challenges. This year they’re working with something that looks like it came out of a “Star Wars” movie – the Hololens.

It’s not virtual reality, and it’s not augmented reality, either

“Microsoft’s taking a stab at what the potential future of computing could be,” Hodge said.

It’s not traditional VR or augmentation like “Pokemon Go.”

“It’s not virtual reality, and it’s not augmented reality, either,” CART student Landon Houze said.

It’s called “mixed reality,” according to Hodge and his students.

Hodge is a Microsoft developer, and he brought the geat into his classroom. The school even purchased a headset for the students to use.

The headgear scans your environment and drops digital content into your world.

Roboraid demonstration by Microsoft using Hololens, an example of mixed reality



“If we make a game where we want to shoot a missile at the wall, it will actually hit the wall, and blow a hole in our wall. So we’ll visually perceive a hole in our wall,” Hodge said.

It may sound like “Pokemon Go,” but Hodge said it’s still not the same. With the Hololens, you can interact with the digital content in front of you.

“Say I'm typing a paper on the topic of archaeology and I have 3D models of the things I'm talking about,” Hodge said. “Well I could actually place those things on the desk around me – grab – look and actually examine these things as I'm writing about them.”


Work by CART students

KSEE24’s Megan Rupe tried the Hololens on.

The students instructed her to use her hand to click, and then she tried a demo game.

The game sends aliens to attack, and you click to shoot. The aliens can shoot back.

“It’s hard to describe,” said 17-year-old Houze, who is one of the students working on the Hololens.

He’s a little more advanced and working to make what the students designed show up when you look through the lens.

“At times it’s frustrating,” Houze said. The lens itself is still in the developer-only stages.

It’s been popular in Silicon Valley, and it’s used in several colleges across the country. But Hodge isn’t sure how many high schools have seen and touched the Hololens.

"I would not be surprised if we're the only one"

“I would not be surprised if we’re the only one,” he said.

The students said they believe the headgear has great potential – so does Hodge.

“What if the digital tools you use had an actual representation where it looked like it physically existed in your world, and you could interact with your software more naturally?” Hodge said.

Military applications are even possible, Hodge said.

“It's something new; it's something that you don't really get to try out everyday,” CART student Nicolas Gaytan said.

"This gets us some attention from colleges – from different places around California and around the United States"

The students hope this will also help their future education endeavors. “This gets us some attention from colleges – from different places around California and around the United States,” CART student Brianna Brown said.

It’s especially important to learn in a field that rapidly growing. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said computer and information technology jobs are set to grow by a half-million in the next 10 years.

CART Info:

  • 14 labs focused on different industries
  • CART is free to attend for any Jr or Sr high school student in the Clovis or Fresno Unified School Districts.
  • For more information, please visit CART.org
The bureau also says domestic computer programmers could face competition unless they’re savvy in the newest tech.

“If that's still a few years out, now is a great time to learn how to do it,” Hodge said.

It’s not just potential not just for the future of technology as we know it, but for young developers as well.

Hodge said, “It's coming, and if you've spent time actually learning how to develop experiences for this new world of computer interaction, you're going to have it on all the competition that's graduating with you, at the other end of college.”

METHODOLOGY


  • Students plan and code



  • Students model and design assets for mixed reality and gaming


  • time>

    Students playtest their work, finding bugs and tweaking code



For more information on CART and its programs, please visit CART.org

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