NYU-SPS students easily develop AR and VR content with Google 3D modeling tools

New York University’s School of Professional Studies (NYU-SPS) offers a User Experience Design diploma (UXD) for creative professionals. Introducing Blocks and Poly into the curriculum sparked a whole new level of interest in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), with nearly every student now working on 3D modeling.

Kevin Park co-developed the UXD program at NYU-SPS in 2016. Students in his user experience and user interface courses are already established as art directors, designers, project managers, marketing managers, researchers, and more. Many look to build new skills and learn new technologies, while others hope to change careers.

Park’s challenge was to teach the user experience (UX) aspects of AR and VR to his students, who lack the 3D-modeling skills of game designers and have little or no experience or expertise in the field. “I tried to go into the production level and teach them to develop for AR and VR, but it was too hard for them to understand,” Park says. Their interest isn’t in 3D modeling itself, but “more about prototyping and developing something quickly so they can show it to their clients, their boss, or their team.”

From concept to 3D object in under 15 minutes

Park realized that Blocks was perfect for getting his students started. Blocks is a VR app for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift comprised of a collection of tools for rapid 3D modeling. Users can create real, volumetric objects in VR and share models via links, .obj exports, or animated gifs that can be viewed on 2D surfaces. Park quickly integrated Blocks tools into his courses, and had students publish the objects they created to Poly, Google's 3D object library. “It takes less than 15 minutes for students to learn how to use Blocks, and then they immediately start building something,” he says.

“Once the students finish their 3D modeling from Blocks, they can access Poly from anywhere,” Park explains. “So, for whatever they are trying to do in their projects, it’s up to them to build from there on their own devices.”

AR & VR apps from the grocery to the subway

One student team used Blocks and Poly to create SuperMunch, an AR scavenger-hunt game app for children ages 5-10 that promotes healthy eating. “Young kids can walk around the grocery store, use their parents’ phone to scan and find the right products, and go back home to create dinner together,” Park says. SuperMunch took “less than a couple of days to do,” he notes, “which is phenomenal for students who had no background in 3D modeling, AR, or VR.”

UXD students now want to learn more about AR, VR, and other emerging technologies. They can then share new concepts with stakeholders in their jobs, and pass them along to in-house developers, designers, or 3D modelers. “We’ve decided to fully incorporate AR/VR and other emerging technology into the program,” Park adds. “Other schools are following similar models.”

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