For virtual reality (VR) to continue its development and growth new talent needs to be nurtured in universities around the world. And many are doing so, with institutions such as Sheffield University and Macquarie University adding VR suites or upgrading existing labs. And then there’s Crytek’s VR First Initiative, which has formed partnerships with over 20 institutions. Most recently the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) received an anonymous gift of $10 million USD, the largest gift the school has received from an individual donor, which it’ll be using to establish the Institute for Performance Innovation.As part of this development UNSCA will advance a cutting-edge graduate program in Gaming and Virtual Reality in the School of Filmmaking, as well as support the creation of a graduate Animatronics Program in UNCSA’s School of Design and Production.
The new program would fully utilize the School of Filmmaking’s New Media Building, a 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for digital design, gaming, animation, special effects and immersive entertainment that opened in 2015. “The School of Filmmaking is poised to build on our history of success and move toward the leading edge of new technologies in storytelling with immersive entertainment, gaming and virtual reality,” said Film Dean Susan Ruskin. The UNCSA is one of only 11 universities nationwide chosen for the Oculus NextGen inaugural program revealed Ruskin: “This program provides access to hardware, guest lectures, creative advisement, and exposure to the virtual reality industry as well as our colleague schools, as we all explore new ways to train the next generation of storytellers.”
“I am profoundly grateful for this transformative gift, and deeply moved by the donor’s guiding vision and passion for UNCSA,” Chancellor Lindsay Bierman said. “It allows us to develop new career pathways for our students by enhancing our facilities, investing in technology, expanding our curricula, and partnering with businesses that shape and define our culture. The Institute will strengthen our position as a leading arts conservatory and creative incubator, and will directly and immediately impact the next generation of artists who will dominate the world’s screens, stages, and creative industries.”
Approximately half of the gift will be directed toward scholarships and faculty, with the balance providing an endowment to support infrastructure and operating expenses for the new programs.
“The Institute for Performance Innovation will optimize relationships with entertainment leaders such as Disney, Cirque du Soleil, Oculus, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Radiant Images, DreamWorks, and Universal Studios, among others,” said newly-appointed Provost David J. English. “The Institute will support efforts connecting the robust curricula with industry professionals in two exciting areas – animatronics and gaming/virtual reality. That will position UNCSA at the apex of arts and entertainment training.”
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