The arrival to the consumer market of immersive devices, both virtual and augmented reality, has created a great demand for specialized profiles in the challenges and opportunities offered by this technology. The 2018 World Economic Forum’s Future Jobs Survey predicts that by 5822, 58% of companies will adopt virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. According to IEEE Spectrum, the number of profiles searched for this specialty during 2019 increased by 1400% over last year.
The master in immersive media is designed to answer the large increase in virtual and augmented reality opportunities for both production and research purposes. The master’s program combines theoretical and practical training and addresses all aspects involved in the creation of immersive content. It is structured in four training axis:
- User experience in immersive technologies. Understand how the user experience is studied in virtual reality, the main perceptual and cognitive factors involved, and the implications for immersive interface design and the use of virtual space.
- Conceptualization, design and production. Design an original creative proposal or meet a client’s needs, structure a proper production plan and execute it.
- Manufacture and Development. Develop technical skills in manufacturing (3D modeling and animation, stage design, lighting and sound) and programming (interaction, scene management, etc.)
- Market and society. To have a strategic and critical perspective on the immersive media market, as well as the economic and social implications of its introduction as a mass consumer product.
Dedication regime: Full time
Languages taught: English, Spanish, Catalan
The master’s degree consists of 5 modules:
1. Virtual, mixed and augmented reality: science and experience evaluation (7.5 credits)
This module is designed to introduce students to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies by covering the fundamental principles of the hardware, applications, psychology, and challenges of such immersive media. The objective is threefold: firstly, students will familiarize themselves with basic features of VR, AR, and MR systems, including the technical framework, architecture, input and output hardware (visual displays, tracking, motion capture systems, haptic devices), as well as applications of immersive technologies in research (psychology, neuroscience, medical) and industry (film, sports, tourism, art). The module will also cover the fundamental principles of cognitive psychology and neuroscience and how these translate to immersive experiences (presence, immersion). These will focus on human perception including both bottom-up sensory input processes (visual, auditory, vestibular) and top-down interpretation of those sensations (experience, thoughts, knowledge), key theoretical concepts for the design and development of innovative immersive solutions. Finally, students will learn to apply the scientific method – experimental research design, data collection and analysis, using mainstream analytical tools – to study and evaluate user experiences, while maintaining best ethical practices in immersive technologies.
- Auditory and visual perception in space
- Cognitive Science and Psychology foundations
- Experimental Design
2. Product conceptualization and production design (15 credits)
This module is designed to teach students product conceptualisation and production design. Students will learn content-related techniques that are needed in order to create an original VR or MR production, from concept to development strategy. Students will be given an overview of the status of the industry so they understand which games companies are investing in VR and MR and why and the way end-users are accessing content. Afterwards, the course will focus on the medium per se, analysing existing works and comparing VR and MR to other art-forms. Analysis of existing works will imply that students investigate gameplay, narrative and development techniques.
An important point in relation to future development of ideas will be that students becomes familiar with Lean and Agile development techniques. Students will also be invited to brainstorm ideas and form teams. It is critical that such teams are multi-disciplinary, in particular, when it comes to spreading roles and responsibilities during production. Users will also be asked to create specification documents and mockups so that their ideas start gathering shape – such documents must be both design-oriented and technical, providing detailed information about the intended end-user experience, duration, etc. Importantly, the document or documents will also define all narrative, sound, game-related and, to an extent, interface-related elements that are to be found in the end-product.
Finally, a lean canvas proposal will ensure that students become aware of team needs, skill shortages etc – this will enable students to make critical decisions in regards to which engine/production technique is to be used and how to go about any external support required (e.g. acting talent, libraries, etc).
All finalised idea proposals will be presented in-class and receive feedback ahead of production. User tests and idea status presentations will also take place regularly in-class. Cross-team support will be encouraged. Students will be required to develop a full distribution and marketing package, in coordination with the Project module, which will be focused on creating a working prototype of their designs.
- Product Ideation
- Marketing and Communication
3. Manufacturing: Modeling, Animation, Rendering, and Interaction Mechanics (15 credits)
This module is designed for students to develop the practical skills needed to create VR, AR and MR content. It is organized in sub-modules, each of them focused on a specific topic, such as modelling, texturing, rigging, texturing and animation, including both 3D environments and 3D characters. In addition to the main production pipelines established in 3D videogame and animation production, we will also place considerable emphasis in the use of immersive tools, particularly VR headsets, for drawing, modelling, sculpting, rigging, texturing and animation. Additional sub-modules on sound design and interaction design complete the module.
- Modelling and sculpting
- Rigging and Animation
- Spatial sound design
- Level design
- Interaction design
4. Game engine programming and interaction (Unreal Engine and Unity3D) (7.5 credits)
This module gives an introduction to the main game engines available for VR and MR development (Unity3D, Unreal) and develops a hands-on approach to their use. It is complemented with a programming course, which can either be a general introductory course to scripting, or an advanced programming module on some specific aspect of the rendering or animation pipeline.
- Game engines for videogames and VR
- Introduction to programming (optional)
- Programming project (optional)
5. Project (15 credits)
This module gives an opportunity to students to develop their ideas in an actual VR prototype. It will combine all the achievements of the previous modules in a functional proof of concept of their ideation process. The experience design and production methodologies, as well as the creative and technical skills developed in the four previous modules will be put in practice by the students in order for them to develop their know-how in the delivery of VR, AR and MR experiences.
Activity: Project Workshop
Dr Domna Banakou is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Event Lab (Experimental Virtual Environments for Neuroscience and Technology) at the University of Barcelona. Dr Banakou completed her PhD in clinical psychology and psychobiology at the University of Barcelona (2017). She also holds a Master’s degree in computer graphics, vision and imaging from University College London, UK, and a Bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Ionian University, Greece. She was awarded a major three-year doctoral grant from the Generalitat de Catalunya (FI-DGR) for her research, and she has won many other prizes for her academic achievements. She has collaborated with researchers internationally and first-authored research papers published in distinguished peer-reviewed journals and conferences, including two articles in PNAS and three articles in Nature Scientific Reports among others. She has given invited talks at esteemed international scientific meetings, and her research has been featured on major media channels in Spain and abroad (BBC, The New Yorker, The Psychologist, The Guardian), including a documentary film (BIAS). She combines technical expertise and experience in research methodologies to understand and promote the use of virtual reality in the fields of psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Ricard Gras is a seasoned producer that works at the intersection between games and films. Over the past years, Ricard has specialised in MR productions. He understands VR as one of the key artistic mediums of our time. Apart from advising several start-ups, Ricard is currently completing a PhD in Immersive Media, chairing SIGGRAPH Asia’s 2020 Games program and currently teaches at Elisava-UPF School of Design and Engineering.
- Digital media producer/director who conceptualises, delivers and manages projects through their whole cycle, from conceptualisation and production to distribution and marketing
- Experience with Product Owner positions, including the creation of technical specification documents and workflows, as well as managing specialised development teams (programmers, 3D developers, graphic artists, data-miners)
- Equally familiar with development of both linear media (talent direction, narrative, etc) as well as interactive media (game design, A.I., etc)
- Advanced working knowledge of agile methods
- Comfortable with both highly-structured project management and more innovation-led approaches
- Early-adoption of Machinima, the making animation with video-games (a technique popularised by Twitch). During the early 2000’s, I independently explored Machinima, becoming one of first producers that created experimental and commercial content with it
- Having consistently adapted to a highly-moving strategic landscape that involves a high variety of technologies, distribution channels, markets and client types
- Conceptualising and producing several of the world’s biggest Motion Capture projects (thousands of cubic meters and weeks of capture at a time…)
- Many of these projects have generated significant returns and are being distributed internationally both via portable, online and thousands of in-venue settings
- Producing several XR titles with minimum resources
Dr Joan Llobera is currently a teacher at the ENTI school of videogames (University of Barcelona) and a part-time postdoctoral researcher at the Event Lab (Experimental Virtual Environments for Neuroscience and Technology) at the University of Barcelona. Dr Llobera holds a PhD in virtual reality on the topic of Storytelling in Virtual Reality, a pluridisciplinar master in Cognitive Sciences (EHESS – Paris, France), a second master on software engineering (UPC – Barcelona, Spain) and a double diploma in electrical engineering (UPC and Télécom Paris – France). He also worked as a post-doc researcher at EPFL (Switzerland), and as a senior researcher at i2cat Foundation. He has done research at the intersection of virtual reality and cognitive sciences for the last 15 years, and published in prestigious journals like Royal Society Interface and PLoS One. He has also conceived and written two funded ICT european projects (H2020 program), among other research grants, as well as received several innovation grants (Hasler Stiftung, Institut de Cultura, XR4all Open Call) and co-founded two startup companies.
At the end of the master, the student will be able to:
- Design a virtual or augmented reality experience aligned with a set of requirements
- Develop the 3D elements (models, animations and textures, but also sound) necessary for an augmented reality and / or virtual reality
- Program the rendering and interaction mechanisms required for a virtual reality experience
- Evaluate user experiences in virtual and augmented reality
- Understand the social, cognitive and economic challenges associated with the advent of virtual reality and augmented society
START DATE: October 2021
FINISH DATE: July 2022
- Designer of augmented and virtual reality experiences
- A virtual augmented reality producer
- Developer of programs for virtual reality
- 3D Modeler (particularly using virtual reality based production tools)
- 3D animator (particularly using virtual reality based production tools)
- Digital artists