University of Central Florida, Full Sail University and other regional higher educational institutions are at the forefront of specialized AR/VR, 3D simulation, IoT and blockchain degree programs, solidifying Orlando’s status as the MetaCenter.
One of the biggest construction projects in all Central Florida is happening right now – and it’s not a highway, skyscraper or theme park. It’s the metaverse, and Central Florida colleges and universities are serving as the pipeline for tech workers who are hard at work creating that new world.
The area is home to seven higher education institutions offering undergraduate and graduate programs and research focused exclusively on the continued mission of enrichment, expansion and practical applications designed for simulation and interactivity with the metaverse – you might even call them “Metaversities.” All are playing vital roles in cementing Orlando’s status as the MetaCenter of the metaverse.
The University of Central Florida (UCF) and Full Sail University are just six miles apart but at the center of metaverse innovations, connecting academia and corporate collaboration with the latest in AR/VR, IoT, blockchain, Web3, gaming and entertainment. The DAVE School, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Orange Technical College, Seminole State College and Valencia College all offer similar programs.
UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy’s (FIEA) offers the nation’s top-ranked Master of Science in Interactive Entertainment degree program – a perfect example of higher-education level innovation and contribution in this space. About half of FIEA graduates will go onto work for Electronic Arts, Iron Galaxy and other gaming or simulation companies in Orlando, which has the highest concentration of game developer licenses in the country.
Central Florida also is the world’s hub for the modeling and simulation industry. The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines operate technology and procurement agencies focused on simulation and training at the Central Florida Research Park, and they partner with UCF’s School of Modeling, Simulation and Training and the National Center for Simulation in a program called “Team Orlando.” Over $6 billion per year of contracts in simulation and training are awarded to commercial companies through Team Orlando.
Orlando’s growing reputation nationally as an innovative tech hub destination for companies, workers and students interested in learning about the latest cutting-edge technologies continues to garner accolades, including:
- No. 1 Fastest Growing City for IT Talent
- No. 1 Best Place to Work in Tech
- No. 2 for Job Posting Growth and Fastest Growing Salaries
With strong industry and educational institution growth, students are set up for success after graduation to bring significant impact to a growing list of major tech companies that call Orlando home.
Building the digital universe for the future
UCF awards more than 18,000 degrees annually, creating one of the largest pipelines of talent in the country, which fuels the next generation of tech talent in Florida and beyond.
Boasting a large concentration of AR/VR faculty and researchers from around the country, the metropolitan public research university is focused on unleashing the potential of people and ideas to positively change the world – both real and digital. That mission certainly drives Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira, a pioneer of immersive virtual reality in UCF’s Department of Computer Science.
Dr. Cruz-Neira is working with nearly every college across the university to create a campus-wide digital twin initiative. She and her team are gathering data and creating the necessary real-time programming elements for a digital twin will eventually include spaces for therapy, ways to teach surgery, and energy and defense applications.
The university also received $8.8 million through the federal Build Back Better regional challenge to develop a digital replica of the Center for Neovation, a world-class sensor and research development facility in Osceola County.
“At UCF, we are collaborating with our Research Park partners as well as companies across the region to solve challenges.”Dr. Carolina Cruz-Neira, UCF Department of Computer Science
“We are building a digital universe from scratch. Our students are leaving UCF with a deep understanding of the technical aspects necessary to build digital experiences,” Dr. Cruz-Neira said.
They also are graduating from UCF well-prepared for careers in either modeling and simulation or many other industries closely connected with the metaverse.
UCF College of Health Professions and Sciences students are honing their skills in the new immersive, mixed-reality Blended Learning Interactive Simulation Suite (BLISS), which uses 270-degree, floor-to-ceiling touchscreen walls that display video and audio simulating any medical procedure or setting, from a hospital room to a football stadium. BLISS was created with the support of the Paul B. Hunter and Constance D. Hunter Charitable Foundation.
UCF’s digital twin expertise also extends to the arts and humanities, with UCF researchers working to recreate iconic locations digitally, such as Cocoa Beach during the Space Program’s heyday, so that future generations can learn from and understand the past. The work is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Bringing AR/VR/IoT to the corporate world
At Full Sail University, their emerging tech degrees span across Artificial Intelligence, IT, and Cybersecurity, to Simulation & Visualization, User Experience, nationally ranked Gaming programs, and beyond. Labs are filled with virtual reality headsets, smart equipment and 3D printers. The private institution’s emerging technologies students design and implement experiences for several fields/projects ranging from healthcare to Formula 1 racing.
Through a partnership with AdventHealth University, Full Sail students and graduates created award-winning virtual training proof of concepts including a Nurse IV Trainer and the DaVinci Xi Surgical Robot Trainer. The Nurse IV Trainer is a VR medical simulation technology that allows medical practitioners and students to practice inserting an IV into a patient’s arm. This simulation is an affordable and convenient alternative that lets nursing students practice the task numerous times without a real arm.
The DaVinci Xi Surgical Robot Trainer allows students and medical professionals to virtually practice using the DaVinci Surgical system – a minimally invasive surgical tool that performs a wide range of surgical procedures. Much like the Nurse IV Trainer, the DaVinci Xi Surgical Robot Trainer is a cost-effective virtual alternative. Both training applications can be affordably scaled and provide medical training throughout healthcare networks.
In addition, Full Sail’s Simulation and Visualization students have also 3D printed a life-sized replica of Red Bull Racing’s RB16 Formula 1 race car. As they craft the elite simulation experience, including haptics and screens to accompany the 3D printed vehicle, these students are currently researching elements drivers experience to make the experience as realistic and immersive as possible. Students create their own simulations from the ground-up, starting with the experience, and even 3D printing and programming solutions for a large simulator on campus. Applications include defense, entertainment, gaming, healthcare, fitness and more.
“The intersection of the metaverse and the real world allows us to solve unique challenges. When companies come to us with a problem, we answer with technologies that do not exist. We innovate and create new technologies.”Dr. Haifa Maamar, Director of Emerging Technologies at Full Sail University
“Our students are inventing practical applications for the metaverse from day one. We are designing NFTs and looking ahead to how blockchain technologies can better serve the public,” Dr. Maamar said.
Last year the university unveiled an on-campus fitness technology lab in partnership with Echelon Fit where students participate in innovation centered on enhancing Echelon equipment and features, as well as the development and implementation of new features for different product lines and fitness and health solutions. That same year, Full Sail unveiled its virtual production stage – Studio V1 – allowing emerging tech and film students the opportunity to engage with the Unreal game engine to create an array of onscreen landscapes for film and commercial use.
With over 880,000+ square feet of real-world media production facilities, the campus includes state-of-the-art learning environments including labs centered on VR/AR, simulation, gaming innovation, UX (user experience), fabrication, IoT and smart device programming, in addition to the Full Sail University Orlando Health Fortress. Home to the university’s collegiate level esports team, Full Sail Armada, this flexible live production space is designed to host everything from friendly campus game events to competitive professional tournaments. The Fortress is the largest collegiate esports venue in the country, and features seating and structures that can be arranged to support any kind of event, as well as 10 million pixels of LED wall to support dynamic visual presentations and graphics, capacity for 500, and a concert-level PA system.
To learn more about the MetaCenter, please visit themetacenter.org.
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Justin Braun at 407.902.0211 or at Justin.Braun@Orlando.org.
About the University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida is a public research university in Orlando that unleashes the potential of people and ideas to positively change the world. Founded in 1963, UCF and its 13 colleges offer more than 230 degrees from the university’s main campus, downtown campus, hospitality campus, health sciences campus, online and through multiple regional locations. UCF is an academic, partnership and research leader in optics and lasers, modeling and simulation, engineering and computer science, hospitality, health care and video game design. According to U.S. News & World Report, UCF ranks among the nation’s 20 most innovative universities.
About Full Sail University
Full Sail University is an award-winning educational leader for those pursuing careers in entertainment media and emerging technologies. Founded in 1979, Full Sail has received accolades throughout its over 40-year history, including most recently being featured on the 2021 “Top 50 Film Schools and Instructors from Around the World” list by Variety Magazine, named a 2022 “Top Undergraduate Schools to Study Game Design” by The Princeton Review, and previously recognized as the “School/College of the Year” by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges. Full Sail University is a graduate and undergraduate degree-granting institution offering on-campus and online degree programs in areas related to Art & Design, Business, Film & Television, Games, Media & Communications, Music & Recording, Sports, and Technology. With over 91,022+ graduates worldwide, Full Sail alumni have worked on countless award-winning projects with individual recognition including Oscar®, Emmy®, GRAMMY®, ADDY®, MTV Video Music Award, and Video Game Award honors.