Novel Applications

Children play smartphone-based games that interact with the real world. Medical students use virtual reality devices to practice surgery. Researchers harness 3D visualization software to study and preserve archaeological structures. Soldiers and pilots train with immersive virtual and augmented reality systems.

Virtual reality or augmented reality (VR/AR) already factor into our personal and professional lives. The potential applications of VR/AR—and the benefits to society—are nearly limitless.

In the near future, the science and technology of VR/AR could help patients recover from traumatic brain injuries, let families enjoy immersive home entertainment systems, and enable students to experience unobservable or inaccessible phenomena in the classroom.

Healing with Emerging Technologies

The use of VR/AR in health care settings is especially promising at the University, home to one of the nation's top academic medical centers. Our researchers are exploring VR/AR uses for:

  • Medical education and training
  • Surgery planning
  • Diagnosis and rehabilitation of brain injury and stroke
  • Assistive systems for independent living

The UR Health Lab, for example, brings together clinicians and researchers with data scientists, computer scientists, and electrical and computer engineers to address modern-day challenges in medicine using computing, analytics, and technology.

In addition, the Center for Augmented and Virtual Reality at Rochester will bring together more than 50 optical engineers, computer scientists, neuroscientists and augmented-virtual reality (AVR) users from across the University, including professors of music, the humanities, and medicine. The goal is to develop new VR/AR technologies that will allow scientists to study how patients integrate sensory information with balance, motor, and muscular activity.

Music and Technology

By combining the resources of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Eastman School of Music, the University is leading advances in audio and music technology. From creating more expressive computer-generated sounds to developing flat-panel loudspeakers, we continue to push the boundaries of how music and technology can enhance each other.

Immersive aural experiences are a hallmark of virtual reality technologies, which creates increasing opportunities to write, produce, and perform music to enhance VR experiences. To that end, the Eastman School of Music (home of the Beal Institute for Film Music and Contemporary Media) offers a master’s degree in contemporary media/film composition. 

The Eastman School also partners with academic departments in Arts, Sciences and Engineering to offer interdisciplinary clusters of undergraduate coursework that explore the science of sound.

Digital Media and Imaging

At Rochester, digital media and imaging technologies, such as 3D modeling and visualization, are regularly used in humanistic research. Examples of such projects include:

  • Object Biometrics, a digital humanities project that draws on art history, biometrics, computation, image processing, and 3D modeling to understand architectural authorship in the design process.
  • Virtual St. George’s, a history project that will culminate in an immersive, game-like experience in which students enter a virtual version of St. George’s, Bermuda, the oldest continuously occupied settlement from British North America.
  • The Ghana field school, in which students use structural analysis, historical and cultural context, surveying, as well as 2D and 3D modeling to study Elmina Castle, on Ghana’s Atlantic coast.


As a leading university, our core mission is education. Not surprisingly, there is strong interest in the numerous and varied educational applications of AR/VR from faculty at the Eastman School of Music, Warner School of Education, School of Nursing, School of Medicine and Dentistry, as well as throughout Arts, Sciences and Engineering.