Rochester—the University and the city—is uniquely poised to become an international leader in the realm of light and sound innovation. Such innovations are essential to the technologies driving developments in virtual reality and augment reality, which are revolutionizing how we learn, work, play, and communicate.

Virtual reality (VR) uses advanced display and immersive audio technologies to create an interactive, three-dimensional image or environment. Augmented reality (AR), on the other hand, uses digital technology to overlay video and audio onto the physical world to provide information and embellish our experiences.

VR/AR technologies are used in a variety of industries, from entertainment to education, health care to scientific research. As a result, the field’s worldwide revenues are expected to grow to more than $162.71 billion, progressing a CAGR of 46% from 2020-2025, according to Technavio's latest market report. 

Building on our history, leveraging our influence

One of the nicknames for Rochester, NY, is “The World’s Image Center.” Our community has a history of innovation and influence in the fields of imaging, optics, and design stretching back to the 19th century with the founding of Bausch + Lomb in 1853 and the Eastman Kodak Company in 1888. In 1929, the University of Rochester founded the Institute of Optics as the nation’s first educational and research program devoted to the study of light.

Today, the Rochester region has more than 120 firms operating in the optics, photonics, and imaging industries. Such companies and start-ups provide the optical components that are vital to light-based technologies, including virtual reality and augmented reality. The University, meanwhile, is the largest employer in the region and is consistently recognized for its strengths in:

  • Imaging and vision
  • Acoustics and audio
  • Optics and optical systems
  • Brain and perceptual sciences
  • Computational and data science
  • Health care
  • Music and sound design
  • Visual arts
  • Digital media
  • Educational innovation

Rochester’s other advantage? Our highly educated and experienced workforce. The University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) are world-class universities educating and supporting a talented labor force for the fast-growing VR/AR industry. Plus, there are more than a dozen other colleges and universities within a short distance of the city.

Forging strategic partnerships

The University of Rochester and RIT are natural collaborators in advancing VR/AR technologies and applications. In an op-ed, the presidents of the two universities highlight the institutions' complementary strengths:

With its Institute of Optics, the Eastman School of Music, Medical Center and programs in audio and music engineering, the University of Rochester has a historic preeminence in optics, photonics and imaging, as well as in music, the technologies of sound and clinical care. RIT’s MAGIC (Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity) center brings together expertise in computer gaming, film and animation and digital media that supports students in bringing products to market.

In fall 2017, the two institutions co-hosted the inaugural Light and Sound Interactive, a three-day interactive conference and expo focused on light- and sound-based technologies and applications.

For more information about the work being done at RIT in vision science, applications, and content creation, see the Frameless Labs website.

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