School of Engineering and Computer Science

Corporate Partners Fund Augmented Reality Center at Oakland University

ARC, augmented reality, VR, louay chamra, engineering

icon of a calendarMarch 2, 2021

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Corporate Partners Fund Augmented Reality Center at Oakland University
Oakland University, the College for Creative Studies and a coalition of regional industry partners have joined forces to establish an augmented reality center (ARC) at Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Oakland University, the College for Creative Studies and a coalition of regional industry partners have joined forces to establish an augmented reality center (ARC) at Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The ARC will introduce students to cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) technology and provide unique opportunities for these students to work alongside expert faculty and industry partners in applying this technology to various aspects of manufacturing.

An important component of the vision – something that makes OU’s ARC unique - is its emphasis on the creative element of AR. Students from the College for Creative Studies, located in Detroit, will work collaboratively with OU engineering and computer science students and faculty on integrated solutions for platform design and visual interfaces.

AR technology, which is already widely used in the gaming industry, will play a key role in the future of manufacturing by creating more cost effective and efficient solutions for companies. Training students to use this technology will prepare them for successful careers in this rapidly growing field following graduation.

Founding Partners

The ARC was funded by generous founding partners who recognize that OU’s strong reputation in engineering and location in the community made it a natural home for this new initiative.

Founding industry partners include ABB Inc., AM General, Continental, General Motors, Hirotec America, KUKA Robotics, Magna International, MAHLE Industries, Rave Computer, Siemens, and US Military Ground Vehicle Systems.

Epic Games is providing support through its Epic MegaGrants Program, a $100 million initiative designed to service and assist game developers, enterprise professionals, media and entertainment creators, students, educators, and tool developers doing outstanding work with Unreal Engine or enhancing open-source capabilities for the 3D graphics community.

According to Dr. Louay Chamra, dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, the founding partners will serve on an Industrial Advisory Board with Oakland University faculty and bring forward ideas for research, training and workforce development that can be implemented at the ARC for the benefit of students and industry.

Dean Chamra believes that the Augmented Reality Center will enhance opportunities for students while providing a resource for regional manufacturing companies that assists with their Industry 4.0 evolution. “Advancing augmented reality will prepare companies in our region to be more competitive in the global marketplace and more successful in achieving goals that are part of the fourth industrial revolution,” he says.

“People often see STEM and industrial design as separate fields, but we create powerful opportunities when we bring these subjects together synergistically to improve efficiency and advance industry all around us.”

“It has been our pleasure to assist Oakland University as they realize their new augmented reality manufacturing related lab,” says Heiko Wenczel, Head of Detroit Lab, Epic Games. “The future of training and manufacturing is in real-time technology, and through the ARC, it’s a future that students of OU will be uniquely prepared for.”

The Power of Collaboration

The vision for the ARC was brought to life through a partnership between Oakland University, the College for Creative Studies and founding industry partners.

This collaborative endeavor will impact students at both universities, providing them with unprecedented educational, research and experiential learning opportunities in augmented reality that have not existed until today. This experience will advance the academic journey for engineering and art and design students, align them directly with industry partners, and prepare them for the highest levels of success following graduation.

Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., is grateful to the founding partners for their leadership and generosity in making the ARC a reality.

“Oakland University is deeply committed to its role in the community and looks forward to serving the needs of students and industry partners through the ARC,” she says. “By partnering with community businesses, we can assist them with their migration to Industry 4.0 technology while academically preparing the future members of their workforce. We are excited about this partnership and the benchmark it can set nationally for bringing practical AR solutions to the manufacturing world.”

Don Tuski, Ph.D., President of College for Creative Studies (CCS), is excited about the collaborative opportunities this partnership will create for students.

“Collaboration is a critical part of the future. Art, design and engineering should work seamlessly together,” he says. “We're excited that through this partnership our students will have the opportunity to learn alongside engineering students and that OU students will enhance their appreciation of the role of design in industry. Through these kinds of partnerships, CCS strives to enrich our students' academic learning with meaningful real world experiences."

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality offers a means to present information in a highly intuitive and immersive way by superimposing digital images and data on objects in real-time. This merging of the three-dimensional physical world and digital data can open new and better ways to interact with machines, effectively bridging the digital and the physical worlds.

Augmented reality also helps people absorb and apply information and instructions in new ways. It can enable a company to analyze and optimize a product to make sure it is working properly before manufacturing ever begins.

It can also help customers visualize products and how they would be used in the customer’s space or use scenario. An example of this functionality is Home Depot’s augmented reality engine that allows customers to “see” how a product will look in their houses. According to Home Depot, online sales conversions have more than doubled since augmented reality was implemented about six months prior to the onset of the present public health crisis.

The use of augmented reality is increasing at an accelerated rate. In 2019, the global AR market was $2.82 billion. According to the latest report released by last month, the global augmented reality market is expected to reach $89 billion by 2026 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.3 percent during the forecast period.

Industry 4.0

Stated simply, Industry 4.0 refers to the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices using modern “smart” technology.

This fourth industrial revolution is powered by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and smart, autonomous systems using computer algorithms to control physical things. (By way of comparison, the technology driver for the third industrial revolution was the computer, for the second, the assembly line and the first, the steam engine.)

According to SAP, there are nine pillars, or foundational technologies, that comprise Industry 4.0. Augmented reality is one of those technologies. Other examples include big data/artificial intelligence analytics, cloud computing, 3D printing and simulation/digital twins.

How will Industry 4.0 impact our region? It will be important for companies to understand and use augmented reality technology, and have a workforce prepared to bring these skills to the table, in order to remain competitive in the global market.

ARC – Where Engineering, Art and Design Intersect

The ARC is a creative and immersive environment where students, faculty and industry will collaborate, engage and explore immersive technology advancements across a broad sector of industries.

The ARC will play a key role in developing talent with workforce skills in augmented reality. Students who participate in ARC programming and research will graduate with a unique, in-demand skillset and a competitive edge over their peers.

The mission of the ARC is to nurture talent and develop a skilled workforce in immersive technologies by:

  • Enabling students to create immersive content for businesses across various industries and connect with industry leaders
  • Solving applied problems for industries, helping them be competitive in a changing environment and transition to the industry 4.0 world
  • Leading the effort to create standardized interfaces for immersive applications
  • Managing workshops for students and industry to educate them about immersive technologies
  • Providing a training facility for industry partners and their workforce and clients

To learn more about OU’s augmented reality center, visit or contact OU's Senior Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Irene Spanos at (248) 370-4915.

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