County College of Morris’ thrid president, Anthony Iacono, was inaugurated Friday. 10/617
RANDOLPH – A new degree in virtual reality is about to become an actual reality at County College of Morris.
The school’s Photo Technology Program will add an associate in applied science degree in the growing field of virtual reality in the fall semester, according to Bruce Dutra, dean of the CCM School of Arts.
“This is what’s coming,” Dutra said. “In some ways, it’s already here.”
Virtual reality technology is increasingly used in a variety of fields, from entertainment and the arts to surgical training. Business, science and government applications also are finding uses for virtual reality as the technology becomes more available and less expensive.
County College of Morris is the first New Jersey community college to offer a virtual reality degree program, Dutra said.
“Photographers and video graphic artists have been a major source of object-based and real-world modeling, which is why we are incorporating this new degree option into our program,” said Nieves Gruneiro-Roadcap, chair of the Department of Art and Design.
The department is already using Samsung 360 cameras in its DeMare Hall photo labs.
“It can see in all different directions,” said Adam Balgobin, who earned a degree in visual arts in 2014 and is now working for the department as a lab assistant. “I feel this is like the future of photography and videography. It’s a necessary step.”
“We’ll also be using the latest technologies including Oculus Rift headsets,” Gruneiro-Roadcap.
Balgobin said he wishes they had the cameras when he was student, but learned how to use 360-degree cameras on his own.
“It’s pretty easy to use once you get used to it. The basics are pretty easy,” Balgobin said. “But the whole point of the virtual reality program is to help teach all the advanced features and help everyone become professional.”
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“What image capture has become over the years has changed drastically,” Gruneiro-Roadcap said. “Digital technologies have changed life in general.”
Students will study a range of areas, including photography, digital imaging, computer science and narrative storytelling in virtual, augmented and mixed reality.
“Most of [the students] will enter through the photo technology track, and then go into the virtual paradigm,” said Gruneiro-Roadcap, who expects to begin in the fall semester with a class of about 15 students.
But as the program expands, virtual reality likely will be integrated into other degree and career tracks.
“We see this as obviously benefiting students in the photography, technology and virtual reality programs, but there are so many opportunities for virtual reality to be used across the campus in all sorts of programs,” Dutra said. “It’s the way of the future, to use a cliche, with regard to health professions, journalism, engineering and technology. If there are connections, we’re going to make the connections. We’re not going to keep it a secret.”
Virtual reality is just one part of a major renovation to the Photo Technology Department that will take place over the summer, Dutra said. The entire department will undergo a physical redesign along with new investments in equipment and even furniture.
“There have already been some small changes, to get ready for the big changes,” Dutra said. “We’re working with space that was designed many years ago. There are so many ways we can better serve the students.”
Staff Writer William Westhoven: 973-917-9242; wwesthoven@GannettNJ.com.
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