Gaming professor selected to experiment with Microsoft’s new virtual reality system
MARIETTA, Ga. (Jun 1, 2016) — Peek into Allan Fowler’s office and you might find him surrounded by his high-tech gear, but his latest addition has the Kennesaw State gaming professor smiling.
Fowler was recently selected as one of the first in the U.S. to receive Microsoft’s HoloLens, a virtual reality system that enables users to interact with high-definition holograms in the physical world.
It’s the newest technology tool added to Fowler’s ensemble of virtual reality devices. With the $3,000 HoloLens’ developer’s edition, he is experimenting with gaming applications for the new system.
“I don’t play a lot of games. I spend most of my time making them,” said Fowler, who joined Kennesaw State’s Computer Game Design and Development faculty last year as an assistant professor of game design and software engineering.
The HoloLens is different from its competition, according to Fowler. The wireless headset, although a bit heavy, is transparent, allowing users to see their physical surroundings and have a peripheral perspective not found in other VR systems. He said the new design could reduce vertigo and motion sickness felt when using a virtual reality system that encloses a user’s vision entirely.
Fowler has been making games for more than 30 years and is excited about the possibilities that holograms bring to game development. When he dons the headset and pinches the air, he’s actually interacting with the interface by selecting icons.
“As an educator, what’s exciting is developing educational apps that teach anatomy or anything that requires a detailed explanation, and have it in a virtual environment so students can physically interact with it in a way that has never been possible before,” Fowler said.
Fowler said that things like basic surgery or structural engineering could benefit from having this virtual reality tool. He said he believes it has more potential as a teaching tool than a gaming tool, citing opportunities for education, libraries, museums or “anywhere you are trying to communicate information that is better communicated in a 3D world.”
This summer, several senior CGDD students will begin to develop educational games for the HoloLens under Fowler’s guidance.
“There are lots of advantages to being an early adopter and getting products out to market,” he said. “One thing that will make it successful is having lots of content out there, and that’s why I want our students to be making games for it.”
Fowler applied for the developer’s edition, which was available by request in the U.S. only, and was selected during phase one of Microsoft’s development rollout. Kennesaw State colleague Rongkai Guo, assistant professor of gaming, has been selected for phase two.
“I’ve been in the industry a long time, and sometimes the new tech comes about and it’s just mediocre,” said Fowler. “But this? It’s seriously cool.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.