NASA Presentation Spotlights UCF Virtual Reality Projects Visualizing Nature 

Nicholson School of Communication and Media Associate Professor Maria C. R. Harrington, Ph.D. discovered that the combination of high immersion and high photorealistic environments, along with free choice and navigation, double learning gains and trigger a complex matrix of emotions, including an evaluation of beauty. “There’s something inherently human about learning in a geospatial experience that drives the logic of this design solution,” shared Harrington. 

Maria Harrington headshot

Harrington teaches in the Games and Interactive Media Program and specializes in creating immersive experiences through virtual reality. She also runs the Harrington Lab at UCF. 

One of Harrington’s recent projects is the Virtual UCF Arboretum that she developed using plant population data and Unreal Engine. Harrington would like to thank her partners in the UCF Aboretum, Jennifer Elliott and Patrick Bohlen, Ph.D., former student Chris Jones ‘18, former graduate student Lieutenant Colonel Fred Martin ‘23MS and Matthew Hogan, the CEO of M3DVR. She said their contributions brought this project to life.  

When Michael Lentz, the Art Director at NASA Conceptual Image Lab and the Lead at NASA Creatives, heard about Harrington’s work, he knew that he needed to learn more. NASA uses gaming engines for astronaut training as well as animation and storytelling. 

Michael Lentz headshot

Harrington was invited by Lentz to speak in front of a group of around 100 attendees at NASA. According to Lentz, NASA Creatives includes about 400 content creators across NASA. The overall goal of the group is to “further the storytelling of NASA,” shared Lentz.  

Her comprehensive presentation covered her Virtual Arboretum project, Virtual Trillium Trail and the AR Perpetual Garden App and discussed how these immersive experiences evoke emotions of curiosity, a need to explore and learn and a desire to create and to share new knowledge. 

Screen grab from UCF Virtual Arboretum VR experience
UCF Virtual Arboretum

Both Harrington and Lentz said they look forward to continued collaboration in the future. 

Learn more about our Games and Interactive Media Program at UCF. 

Comments are closed.