Drexel Launches the Immersive Research Lab

Launched in 2018 in the heart of the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s URBN Center, the Immersive Research Lab (or IRL) is a lab space dedicated to the study and research of immersive media including VR, AR, immersive projection, virtual production and related technologies. The lab brings these unique technologies together in a single, dynamic space specifically designed to encourage collaboration across programs, departments and colleges throughout Drexel University.

Surrounding the IRL, the department has installed over one hundred VR ready computer systems in open use classrooms and computer labs, while the IRL itself is designed specifically for Immersive Media. The trussing around the open plan floor space features studio lighting, motion capture systems and an ambisonic audio system. Of course there is a collection of both Mac and PC platforms in the lab to enable VR and AR development for almost any operating system, but the lab also features specialized HP-ZVR Backpack computer systems that can be worn by users as they freely move about virtual spaces. The lab can also be networked with Animation, Capture and Effect Lab’s larger motion capture studio across the hall to facilitate “larger than room scale” virtual experiences.

Reporters from Philadelphia’s NBC10 visiting the IRL to learn about the latest technologies available to Drexel students. Take a look at their full report here on NBC10’s website.

Virtual Reality meets Industry Reality

Read WHYY Arts & Culture reporter Peter Crimmins’ piece covering how Drexel University’s Immersive Research Lab and other college initiatives in Philadephia are preparing students to meet the growing industry demand for VR skills.

Partial List of Equipment, Tools and Facilities in the IRL

  • Macintosh Workstations (for OSX & iOS development)
  • HP-ZVR Backpack Workstations
  • MSI Dual GTX 1080 Laptop
  • MSI GeForce 1070 Laptop
  • Asus Zenbook Duo Multi-display Laptop
  • Dell 7910 Multi-GPU Workstations
  • Magic Leap Headset System
  • Microsoft Hololens AR Headset Systems
  • Windows Mixed Reality Systems
  • HTC VIVE & VIVE Pro VR Headset Systems
  • Oculus VR Headset Systems
  • Oculus Go VR Headset Systems
  • Optitrack Motion Capture System
  • Vicon Motion Capture System
  • iClone Facial Motion Capture System
  • Faceware Facial performance capture System
  • Leap Motion Hand Tracking Systems
  • Samsung 360Round Stereo 360° Cameras
  • Nokia OZO Stereo 360° Camera
  • VUZE Stereo 360° Cameras
  • ZED Mixed Reality Camera System
  • Drexel-built custom 360° Stereo Camera Systems
  • Drexel-built custom VR-Cycle ride
  • 16-foot Diameter Fulldome Projection System
  • X-Wing Cockpit
  • 4k Stereo and 4k Mono display screens
  • LED Lighting Systems

Located by the central staircase and elevator of the URBN Center, the lab is just steps away from laser cutters and 3D printers used to create custom hardware, 3 different screening rooms, the product design and fashion design departments, and just across the hall from the main motion capture and greenscreen studio in the ACE-Lab. 

There are routinely faculty and students from all corners of the university working together in the lab. Computer Science, Immersive Media, Animation, Game Designers, the Nursing College, Product Designers… really anyone with an interest in Immersive Media eventually finds their way to this lab where the resources to develop and refine almost any kind of immersive media project are in place and ready to be used.

Immersive Research Lab Projects

James Galanos Interactive Exhibition

Faculty and students worked in the IRL to create 360° digital gigapixel views of garments by famed designer James Galanos. The team completed a fully interactive touch-based display which was opened to the public as part of the Pearlstein Gallery’s retrospective exhibition of Galanos’ work.

SIGGRAPH 2018 VR "Motocycle"

For the 2018 SIGGRAPH Conference, a group of students and faculty built a fully ride-able VR “Motorcycle” ride system where VR trackers were used to follow the real-world rides movements as a rider leaned into turns, and translate those movements into control inputs for several student-developed video games design specifically for the cycle. The project involved students from not just the VR & Immersive Media program, but also Game Design, Animation, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Product Design and Computer Science. In the end, we shipped the ride to Vancouver and exhibited it internationally at the 2018 SIGGRAPH Conference.

Dreadnoughtus VR

An immersive paleoart piece, Dreadnoughtus VR was the master’s thesis project of graduate student Valentina Feldman. She worked in collaboration with graduate students working in Paleontology at Drexel’s College of Arts & Sciences, and the staff at Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences.

SIGGRAPH 2017 Experience Hall Immersive Gateway

A group of students and faculty from Drexel collaborated to create the immersive projection space that served as the entrance gateway for the 2017 SIGGRAPH Conference Experience Hall. The space featured four 9ft x 12ft projection screen walls, and an 18ft diameter projection dome, all filled with immersive animation created by the students, as well as theatrical lighting and conference signage.