Speaker series bringing leading extended reality experts to campus


The head of technology at Disney Studios. A researcher who encourages people to understand the social realities of racism by virtually walking in the shoes of a black man. An expert in how to build safe virtual worlds. The head of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

These leaders will share their work with extended reality during a University of Michigan series that begins at the end of this month.

Part of the university’s XR Initiative, a three-year funded commitment announced in September, the Winter 2020 XR Speaker Series organized by the Center for Academic Innovation will offer monthly individual presentations, followed by an XR at Michigan Summit in April.

The events, which are free and open to the public, are:

XR: A Critical Analysis and Transdisciplinary Approach to Development and Application

1-3 p.m. Jan. 31, Rackham Graduate School, Amphitheatre

Courtney D. Cogburn, associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, will describe her work that seeks answers to why black Americans have earlier onset, faster progression and earlier deaths from 15 of the leading causes of death.

In trying to shed light on social disparities in health, Cogburn and colleagues created a virtual reality experience that puts people in the shoes of a black man, Michael Sterling, as he encounters racism as a child, adolescent, young man and an older adult.

How to Build SAFE Virtual Worlds

9-11 a.m. Feb. 21, Michigan Union, Kuenzel Room

Kavya Pearlman is co-founder and CEO of the XR Safety Initiative, which seeks to develop best practices, encourage research and raise awareness around safety and security in the XR world.

The initiative has been working to categorize security threats and attack vectors. Initiative goals include working with industry and the academy to promote scholarship by coordinating funding agencies, set standards for use of XR data and computing resources, impact policy and regulatory decisions, and raise awareness about privacy issues surrounding the emerging technology.

XR at Disney

9:30-11:30 a.m. March 27, Palmer Commons, Forum Hall

Jamie Voris, chief technology officer at Walt Disney Studios, is a U-M alumnus and a member of the external advisory board for the School of Information.

In 2018, Disney announced the opening of StudioLab, a 3,500-square-foot creative space to encourage Disney, partner Accenture Lab and others to explore storytelling using next-generation technologies of VR, Artificial Intelligence and Mixed Reality.

XR at Michigan Summit

9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 14, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, Robertson Auditorium

The daylong summit will continue the conversation on XR technology. The keynote speaker will be Jeremy Bailenson, U-M alumnus, Stanford University professor and an expert in VR. Bailenson is founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. He studies the psychology of virtual and augmented reality.

Speakers include a senior scientist from Microsoft Hololens, a former Snapchat executive, leaders of local XR startups, and U-M faculty and researchers who are teaching with and about XR technologies. There will be opportunities to try out augmented and virtual reality devices and experiences from sponsors Microsoft and Lenovo.


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