New VR Development Club Aims to Innovate, Explore

March 12, 2018

If you want to learn more about virtual reality and help develop innovative VR applications, then look no further than UCI’s new Virtual Reality Development Club (VRDC). Started by computer science major Edward Lok, a second-year transfer student, VRDC aims to explore the boundaries and applications of VR technology and collaborate with VR companies to test new products.

“Our goals are to provide insight into careers in VR development and provide a learning environment for students who are interested in exploring VR development but don’t know where to start,” says Lok. The newly formed ICS-affiliated club has a dozen or so members but hopes to grow to 30 students by June. “VR is at the forefront of futuristic technology, and students at UCI have shown a great amount of interest in this field,” explains Lok. And such interest is for good reason. According to a recent Forbes article, virtual reality presents a huge opportunity: “Every time there is a vast technological leap like VR, there is a massive opportunity for companies who are willing to take the risk and invest in a new marketing channel.”

Some VRDC officers attending a local VR workshop with HTC Vive’s VR Evangelist, Steven Xu (left). Next to Steven is VRDC’s VP, Cameron Maberto; President Edward Lok; webmaster Armen Mouradyan; PR officer Ryan Aveo; and (front) artwork team member Kathleen Zhou.

Lok’s own interest in VR started with a summer internship at startup Paper Triangles, where he worked as a Unity VR developer. “Spending the summer immersing myself in VR… I quickly found myself growing passionate for the technology. That’s why I decided to establish VRDC.” Activities Lok hopes to bring to UCI through VRDC include the following:

  • social VR events (similar to the VR 101 Q&A he organized in January) to expose students to VR technology and games;
  • a full series of Unity VR development workshops to promote experimental VR development among students and club members;
  • a VRcade event, with several headsets brought in for competitions or free play;
  • a VR hackathon to further promote interest in VR development; and
  • panel discussions with industry professionals who can provide insight to students about how to get into the VR industry.

According to VRDC’s faculty advisor, Informatics Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum, “VR is still a very experimental medium, without a lot of the ‘best practices’ and techniques of more established forms like film, television or games.” VRDC thus “creates opportunities for UCI students to do something risky or experimental in their designs that could impact the evolution of this new medium.”

Whether you’re interested in VR as a hobby or possible career path, visit the VRDC Facebook page to learn more about the club. As Lok notes, because this is a new club on campus, “we have the opportunity to learn and grow together [and to] create innovative products using this new medium of technology to get the public excited about VR.”

— Shani Murray