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Arts & Culture

R.I. Virtual Reality offers networking opportunities, updates on industry

Co-founder of Xmark Lab Nicholas Napp delivers keynote address, insight on industry developments

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2019

Rhode Island Virtual Reality hosted its monthly meet-up last Thursday at AS220 for virtual reality enthusiasts to hear from speakers in the business. During the two-hour meet-up, visitors shared ideas, formed connections and learned more about the recent innovations in the virtual reality and augmented reality industry.

The purpose of the meet-up was to update participants on the most recent technology developments as featured in the annual Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas this past January. The meet-up invited the co-founder of Xmark Lab Nicholas Napp as the keynote speaker to expand upon some of the products showcased at CES and provide his insight on various trends in VR/AR development.

Participants at the RIVR meet-up included various businesses, tech startups and students. “There are a lot of companies that are interested in (the CES) but are unable to go,” said Siu-Li Khoe, the executive director of RIVR and organizer of the event. For a lot of small businesses willing to engage in the industry without the time or the financial resources to attend the conference, the meet-up was an opportunity to stay up-to-date and connect with others with the same interests.

RIVR aims “to energize the VR and AR ecosystem,” Khoe said. “Because this is such a leading-edge industry, we are really talking about bridging the gap between people who have inspirations and ideas, and actually having funded, resourced projects.” Since the establishment of RIVR, Khoe noted that she “can point to an increasing number of projects that are being funded.”

The companies associated with RIVR come from a wide range of fields, including non-profit work, film production and computer science.

“We are looking at how VR can be incorporated to make workplace learning more effective and make it so that people actually enjoy it,” said Anne Devaney, program manager of TCP Learning and one of the participants at the meet-up.

John Smithers, vice-president in business development and strategic partnerships of the Mullings Group, said that he is especially intrigued by how AR and VR can play a role in education, parenting, trauma relief and other humanitarian applications.

Khoe describes the VR culture in Rhode Island to be “warm, welcoming and enthusiastic.” She further said that one of RIVR’s tasks is to “partner ruthlessly.”

RIVR has collaborated with Brown students and groups, including the Ivy Film Festival and Bears@Work, a computer science student organization. RIVR has further conducted tours at the YURT Ultimate Reality Theatre, the University’s virtual reality theater, and has held meet-ups at the Granoff Center.

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