NYU Uses 3D Virtual Reality as Acceptance Letters

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BROOKLYN, N.Y., March 21, 2017 — New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering will debut a 3D cardboard viewer in its student acceptance packages, taking recipients on a journey to a microscopic, intracellular world — a virtual reality (VR) game environment where they can watch cells communicate using chemical signals.

Tandon Labs is an immersion into the research of professor Alesha B. Castillo. Users are virtually dropped through a microscope’s eyepiece to the interstice between bone and capillary-forming endothelial cells. Courtesy of NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

NYU Tandon debuted the experience, called Tandon Labs, at the SXSW Gaming Expo in Austin, Texas. NYU Tandon was the only school invited to showcase a VR game that is being used as an admissions tool, but Tandon Labs is available to all as a free Android or Apple download.

The journey is an immersion into the research of Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Alesha B. Castillo. Users visit her Laboratory for Mechanobiology and Regenerative Medicine, where they are virtually dropped through a microscope's eyepiece to the interstice between bone and capillary-forming endothelial cells. They then enjoy a colorful close-up view of the process by which bone cells use chemical signals called paracrines to enjoin capillary endothelial cells to commence angiogenesis -- the formation of new blood vessels.

"Little is known about the interaction between different cell types within the bone injury environment," said Castillo. "We started this research to look specifically at how bone cells might control angiogenesis using signaling molecules."

The app was designed by artist and NYU Tandon digital media faculty member Mark Skwarek, who heads the NYU Mobile Augmented Reality Lab, and Integrated Digital Media graduate student Siyuan Qiu. Working with Castillo, they meticulously recreated the cells and movement that researchers see through the microscope.

"Immersive experiences like Tandon Labs allow students to envision themselves as a part of our world-class research community," said Katepalli R. Sreenivasan, dean of NYU Tandon. "But, just as importantly, it evinces our commitment to taking engineering 'out of the box' by encouraging experimentation and collaboration between disparate communities and disciplines. Tandon Labs is an example of how great ideas spring from thinking beyond silos, labels, and definitions."

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering is a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society.

Published: March 2017
virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment or experience that can be interacted with and explored by an individual using electronic devices, such as a headset with a display. VR aims to create a sense of presence, immersing users in a computer-generated world that can be entirely fictional or a replication of the real world. It often involves the use of specialized hardware and software to provide a fully immersive and interactive experience. ...
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