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Homecoming speakers and cool glasses give view into the future

By Steve Seepersaud

After entering Casadesus Recital Hall for the TIER Talks speaker event at Homecoming, the first thing noticeable wasn't the absence of the large piano that's usually at the front of the room. It was a black metal contraption - with a red leather seat and steering wheel - that looked like it belonged in a video game, not a music hall. By giving the audience something to touch and feel, TIER Talks was going to live up to its acronym of Talks that Inspire, Educate and Resonate.

On Oct. 7, two alumni and a current student discussed why virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are important now and will be more so in the coming ten years. About 150 alumni, students and friends attended the session presented by M&T Bank and the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

VR immerses us in another world, allowing us to feel as if we are flying through space, golfing the world's finest courses or running in a marathon. AR, on the other hand, instantly adds real-time data to what is seen in real life.

Mario Palumbo '87 shared an AR example that combined both his professional and personal interests. While head of engineering for Recon Instruments - subsequently acquired by Intel - Palumbo, an avid cyclist, made glasses that enabled riders to see speed and distance data without needing to look down at a dashboard computer.

"It's like you're developing the innate ability to do something," said Palumbo, director of technology for wearable devices for Intel's New Devices Group. "That's why I use the term 'superpowers.' Glasses will have senses that will always see what you're seeing and hear what you're hearing."

What would skiers do if global warming meant we no longer had snow? That question inspired Matt Gill '18 to build a skiing simulator. He admits he was a lousy virtual skier, but came away with another big question. What prototype could a college student build with a limited budget that would hold up to repeated use? From there, he and several students in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science launched Enhance VR. The black metal contraption at TIER Talks was his second simulator; it provided the virtual experience of driving a Formula One race car.

"We're excited to be doing this in the birthplace of virtual reality, and I have family ties back to the Endicott-Johnson shoe company," Gill said. "We're taking virtual reality from playing to immersing, from using to experiencing and from learning to exploring."

As if AR and VR weren't enough letters to digest, Hiren Bhinde, MS '05 gave two more: XR. He's director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, which is working on what Bhinde calls the next computing platform that will revolutionize enterprise and industries. He took the audience through an example of a hotel fire, showing that XR glasses could give rescuers real-time data - such as where hot spots are located - to make their work more effective. Bhinde says these technologies will shape how we communicate and learn in countless ways.

"If I read something, I'll remember 50 percent of it," Bhinde said. "If I write it, I'll remember 70 percent, but if I do it, I won't forget it."

Peter Newman, MBA '98, regional president of M&T Bank, addressed the audience at the beginning of the program, saying the TIER Talks sponsorship aligns strongly with the company's desire to give back to local communities.

"This is our third year sponsoring TIER Talks," Newman said. "It's great to have the opportunity within Binghamton to share the intellectual power we have at this University. This is an incredible story and we need to share it."

James Pitarresi - vice provost for student and faculty development, executive director of the Center for Learning and Teaching and Distinguished Teaching Professor of mechanical engineering, was the event's moderator.


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Last Updated: 3/29/18