Rhia Kumar, Stony Brook University

Week 1:

    Before the internship began, there was a social gathering at Bowlero to facilitate introductions with our peers and Dr. Wole. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the memo and ended up missing out on my initial opportunity to connect with my fellow interns. The next day, I had the opportunity to meet with my peers and Dr. Wole. We explored Hunter College and concluded the day by connecting with our mentors. I scheduled an individual session with my mentor(s) to delve into the potential structure of my project. I started examining the relationship between housing valuations and climate, considering them as pivotal elements for my research. Additionally, I initiated a review of literature focusing on structural racism and its historical visualization to enrich my understanding. Navigating the various directions for my project left me feeling slightly overwhelmed. During the remainder of the week, I completed my project proposal, delineating its distinctiveness. We concluded the week by familiarizing ourselves with Paraview and delivering our project proposals. 

Week 2:

The week began with an introduction to the fundamental principles of writing a scientific research paper and familiarized us with Overleaf for composing our documents. Additionally, Professor Wole conducted VR lectures on immersive visual and interactive displays, alongside 3D geometry. Following that, the next day I had a meeting with Dr. Wole, Professor Cogburn, and Lisa on exactly the next steps moving forward and what I should have accomplished by the end of the week. We decided it was best to explore the visualization tools further and begin data collection to find specific years that I should specifically analyze. Out of all the tools, I definitely think mapbox and unity does seem the most feasible. Additionally, they mentioned after I had done this, beginning next week my implementation of VR in my research would be discussed and further finalized. 
Professor Wole then took the time to go over everyone’s technical implementations and progress with their research. I took this time to download unity and integrate mapbox. I began to watch videos on how to use Mapbox, so I can familiarize myself. It didn’t go that well, but I continued my literature review. I was able to add my introduction and related works section to overleaf. 
Thursday was where I felt extremely overwhelmed. As I was in the midst of collecting data from the online data portal relating to climate, specifically heat index, and health (particularly asthma related ed visits), I came across several roadblocks. All the portals with access to this data were prohibiting me to analyze data of heat index over particular years, rather it would just say ” heat index of 1 out of 5″ for x neighborhood or it gave data only for one particular year (2018). However, I was able to find data on heat events, which is where the most people die due to extreme heat than all other extreme weather events combined. According to the portal, 100-degree days are a significant heat event, so I was able to compile data on heat events citywide, yet again I ran across the issue of finding specific data for the two neighborhoods (Riverdale and Soundview). Hence, I then zoomed into the two historically redlined areas for asthma-related visits because it is seen that these heat events exacerbate asthma. I decided to look at asthma-related visits because once someone has asthma, they always have it. 
We ended the week exploring Tableau, which I found to be very interesting. We created GitHub ID’s, where we then updated our to-dos, in progress, and done sections in relation to our projects. Subsequently, everyone gave Dr. Wole updates on our projects, and I was able to express what errors I came across the day prior with data collection. He advised that maybe if there is data on specific boroughs, I can use those as comparison instead of two specific neighborhoods. We ended the day with a chance to look into the virtual reality headsets, which was so darn cool! 
Here is the data I collected on Thursday, but will need to be updated as per Dr. Wole:

Amateur Confidence in Creativity with the Community Game Development Toolkit

Lance Cheng (he/him), University of Massachusetts Amherst

Week 1: Mon 06/03 – Sun 06/09

Hi! A little bit about myself: I’m Lance, I use he/him pronouns, and I’m a native New Yorker. I just finished my first year at UMass, where I study data science, CS, public interest technology, and comparative literature. Besides academics, I also love volunteering as a notetaker, working as a TA and at UMass’s queer resource center, learning languages, and playing guitar.

This summer, I’ll be working on the Community Game Development Toolkit with Professor Daniel Lichtman. The Toolkit is a set of tools for the Unity game engine that allows you to make collage scenes, and it was particularly developed so people without technical game development skills could still create games – otherwise, we’d miss out on so many of their unique perspectives! I hope this blog can be useful to future applicants to the REU who want to see what the experience is like or future students who work with Dan and want something to reference.

I spent most of the latter half of the week doing some literature review and coming up with different experimental designs, with the goal of the experiments being to determine if the Toolkit’s features help people feel more creative and in touch with themselves. It was great meeting Dr. Wole (who organizes this REU), the mentors, and the other interns so far, and I’m excited to work more with all of them in the coming weeks! I’m also excited to bring together the artistic and quantitative aspects of computation and figure out how to design something that maximizes creative possibilities.

Week 2: Mon 06/10 – Sun 06/16

Second week completed! The biggest event of this week was finalizing the basis of the experiment I’ll be running. Dan wanted to see how the Toolkit could help diverse communities tell stories about themselves, and to make that benchmark a little more measurable, I’ve decided to investigate if the Toolkit’s collage-style approach makes people more confident in their creativity compared to other tools. Most of my time was spent brainstorming experiment structures, doing even more literature review, and drafting the introduction and related works sections of my paper. This was also my first time using LaTeX, which was much easier than I thought it would be, thankfully.

Something else that’s been really helpful: reaching out to Dan’s former interns! Two people have worked with Dan before me (Amelia Roth and Habin Park, both of whose publications are linked on this REU home page), and both of them are lovely people who gave thoughtful advice when I discussed some of the problems I was running into. It sounds obvious, but to anyone in the future, please do reach out to past REU cohorts; it made me feel much less isolated to know they encountered the same issues and published successfully despite that.

Immersive Content for Interdisciplinary STEM Education

Cason Allen, Florida A & M University

Week 1: Introduction & Project Proposal

This REU opened up with a social event where Dr. Wole took our cohort to bowl. It was fun, as I had the opportunity to meet the other students in the program. The following day commenced the first official day of the REU, where we toured Hunter College and were given an introduction to some of the mentors. The week progressed with meeting my mentor Kendra Krueger, where we started formulating ideas for the project I would be engaging in this summer. With my project relating to how the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is involved in STEM education and outreach, it was nice to see how field trips at the CUNY Graduate Center are conducted and how they aim to teach students in the short time they have. This set the stage for what my project proposal would look like, as I spent much of the rest of the week doing research on the different ways to go about the project and brainstorming methods to conduct it. In addition, we ran through the first couple of lectures in Dr. Wole’s Introduction to Virtual Reality class and gained an introduction to the software Paraview. Seeing how much we have done in such a short amount of time, I am excited about what the next 7 weeks have in store in this REU.

 

Week 2: Project Progression and Literature Review

This week, I met with Kendra to further discuss my project’s expectations. With this project primarily being a visualization tool for various instruments within the ASRC, its accessibility must be more open to the public. Therefore, I aim to create a desktop visualization program and, if there is any time, create a VR version. For this tool, I have started finding objects to create the virtual object library needed and have scratched the surface of what can be done in Unity. Unfortunately, I could not explore as much as I needed to due to getting sick mid-week, so moving forward, I will have to catch up and stay on track. In addition, I have been working on my literature review, gaining a couple more sources revolving around augmented reality in STEM education and assessing student learning outcomes. I was able to continue my paper by implementing this into Overleaf, and moving forward, I will be starting my methodology and meeting with a researcher at the ASRC to see how some of the instruments operate. If I can not find digital models for such instruments, I may have to recreate them in SolidWorks.

Immersive Remote Telepresence and Self-Avatar Project

Deshanae Morris, Farmingdale State College

Week 1:

The first week of the REU program began on the 2nd of June where I got to meet the group I would be working with for the next 8 weeks over a fun game of bowling. Everyone was extremely welcoming and although I utterly failed the game that day I still enjoyed myself. The following day, the group got to know their mentors and toured Hunter College. For the remainder of the week, I dedicated my time to brainstorming unique ideas and diligently working on drafting and finalizing my research proposal. I also conducted a literature review to ensure that my proposal was unique. While there is still a significant amount of work ahead, I am excited about the journey and look forward to achieving much more in the upcoming weeks.

Week 2:

During the second week of the REU program, I continued to develop my proposal, literature review, and methodology. This past week has been dedicated to understanding the technical aspects of my study to begin implementing my methodology. Dr. Wole has introduced the REU group to various applications and concepts related to 3D modeling and virtual reality systems, enhancing our familiarity with these tools. I have been practicing more with Reallusion as I will need it for my research paper, but I still have much more work to do to produce my final product.

Enhancing Virtual Exploration for Blind and Low Vision Users: In-Place Virtual Exploration with Mixed Reality Cane

Hong Zhao, CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College

Mentors: Hao Tang and Oyewole Oyekoya

 

Week 1:

The day before the VR-REU program officially kicked off, Dr. Wole organized a bowling icebreaker event. It was really fun! Everyone was very enthusiastic, and I was happy to meet the other cohort. On Monday, we first completed an REU pre-program survey, then took a quick tour of Hunter College and met all the REU mentors on Zoom. My work officially started as I began discussing my project direction with Dr. Tang and getting a preliminary understanding of some of the current project code. Wednesday was the first class on VR, AR, and Mixed Reality, which primarily covered the ideal principles, how it works, and the history of VR. For the rest of the week, I reviewed some related literature and then had another discussion with Dr. Tang to finalize some research directions and complete my project proposal. Finally on Friday, we got an introduction to ParaView and presented our project proposals.

 

Week 2:

This week, Dr. Wole introduced us to the writing tool Overleaf. He also demonstrated how to use Tableau for optimizing data visualization. 

I completed the CITI training and successfully developed the initial version of the MR Cane control system. Here is how it works:

  • When the user long-presses the screen for two seconds, the virtual character begins to move.
  • The direction of the character’s movement is determined by the current orientation of the headset.
  • The mobile phone acts as a white cane. Users can swing their phones left or right to control the movement of the virtual cane.

Initially, I used the AR Session’s camera to capture the phone’s rotation data. However, this method proved to be imprecise when the phone was parallel to the ground, leading to suboptimal performance. To address this, I switched to using the phone’s gyroscope to obtain the rotation angles. This approach has significantly improved the test results.

Here are some key points about using the gyroscope:

  • When the device is in its default orientation, the X-axis points horizontally to the right, the Y-axis points vertically upward, and the Z-axis points away from the front of the screen. Thus, the back of the screen corresponds to a negative Z value.
  • As the device moves or rotates, these coordinate axes remain fixed relative to the phone.

This new method using the gyroscope has shown promising results in our tests, enhancing the accuracy and responsiveness of the MR Cane control system.

 

Gamification of Food Selection and Nutrition Education in VR

Student: Caroline Klein, Vassar College

Mentor: Margrethe Horlyck-Romanovsky, Brooklyn College

 

Week 1

After a hectic move-in and learning to use the subway on the first day, I was happy to meet Dr. Wole and all my wonderful cohort members at bowling. Monday was mostly settling in to Hunter and learning about the structure of the program, but later in the week we dove into discussing research conferences and VR, including a brief introduction to ParaView. I also met with my mentor twice to discuss research ideas and develop my project. I spent most of the week researching, brainstorming, and writing my proposal in my room, using the previous REU publications as reference. I also dedicated a significant amount of time to completing my CITI certification to ensure proper research practices.

I am currently planning to develop a virtual buffet environment and design an experiment to see how incorporating gamified elements like nutrient-based point incentives influences people’s food selections in the simulation. It was challenging gauging how much development I could accomplish in 4-5 weeks since I’ve never worked with Unity or VR, but I am open to adjusting my project as needed once I am familiar with the software and have a better sense of what I can accomplish. Although things were a bit unclear at first, I’m excited for the following weeks as I take the next steps with my project and begin learning Unity.

 

Week 2

I spent most of the first half of the week setting up and connecting the MetaQuest headset and learning how to deploy a game from Unity. Kwame was very helpful in this area, and spent time during Wednesday’s class helping me and Amaya get a handle on the basics. I followed some introductory Unity tutorials and played around with the VR development environment on my own as well. For the second half of the week, I completed my literature review and drafted the Introduction, Related Work, and References sections of my research paper. I also completed my CITI certification and tried out Tableau in class on Friday. On my own time, I was excited to attend a women in computing event at Bank of America and get a NY Public Library Card after finally getting our student IDs. 

Next week, my goal is to jump into development and make significant progress on the VR game because the headset logistics took longer than I expected this week and I have not started implementing the actual buffet simulation yet. I aim to finish the game in the next 3 weeks so I have enough time to collect data, analyze results, and finalize the paper. I will also start planning the specifics of the buffet options and gathering information about their nutritional value using the USDA database as my mentor suggested.

VR as a sensory stimulation tool for adolescents with ASD and anxiety

Amaya Keys, Howard University

Week One:

As a pleasant start to the program, I met the other students I’d be spending the next eight weeks with over a fun night of bowling. On Monday morning, we briefly met with our mentors via Zoom following an in-depth tour of Hunter College’s facilities. My mentor, Mr. Daniel Chan, recommended that we keep in mind the scope of the project and not to overextend ourselves with a wildly complex project for only 8 weeks. To me specifically, he suggested that I pick one specific disability, do thorough research on it, and from there decide on how a VR/AR application may help. I met with him one-on-one twice during the week to receive guidance on all of the jumbled thoughts racing through my mind. After bouncing from idea to idea, I finally landed on the development of a virtual multi-sensory stimulation room for adolescents with ASD that experience anxiety. To close out the week, we completed a short lab on ParaView, decided on a conference that we would submit our research to at the end of the summer, briefly reviewed our updated project proposals, and then finally got a sneak peek into the VR lab. Now that my project is solidified, I hope to dive into experimenting with Unity, as I know I have a steep learning curve ahead of me. 

Week Two:

To start off the week, I finished the remaining modules of my CITI training so that I could solely focus on writing my literature review. I also received one of Dr. Wole’s VR Meta Quest headsets to take home and begin experimenting with. I attempted to set it up to my computer and phone on my own as well as deploy Unity but experienced many challenges. Later in the week, Kwame assisted me with the set-up process, and we ran an escape room demo to test its functioning. Following successful set-up, I worked to enable hand tracking on the headset and test another demo but ran into further difficulties that I am still working to resolve.  

I spoke with my mentor at our scheduled Tuesday meeting time, and we just ensured that I was feeling confident and secure in the direction my project was heading. Throughout the week I continued to take notes on various studies and worked to weed out the ones I felt were unnecessary to include in my paper. The first draft of my literature review was unnecessarily long and contained way too many sources that weren’t directly related to my research, but by Thursday night, I had finalized a version that I was happy with. I sent it to my mentor for feedback and while he had a few comments about potential changes, he was overall pretty satisfied with how it looked. On Friday, we conducted a brief lab on Tableau and updated Dr. Wole on the status of our projects.

Next steps for me include solidifying my methodology and making headway on the development of my sensory room. I intend to search through the Unity assets store and TurboSquid to hopefully find some ready-made elements for my project. Before anything else though, I definitely want to fix the errors with the hand tracking functionalities, as this will be a significant element of my application.

VR-REU 2024

Week 1

Or Butbul

 

After landing in a sunny New York and unpacking my bags, I headed down to the lobby to meet the group of people that would be living in the same residence as me, we all went together to go bowling with the rest of the group and we had a lot of fun! The next day was spent touring the college, meeting the professors, and starting to talk about proposals. Initially I was drawn to a project focusing on Motion Capture. After reading the bulk of articles focusing on Motion Capture I decided to shift my focus more towards graphics. My proposal was accepted after the class we had on wednesday and I spent my time refining it on Thursday. Friday was spent learning Paraview and exploring the city

 

Week 2

This week focused on completing the preliminary material. I have been working on the CITI training materials as well as the literature review for the beginnings of my paper. I have been having an issue with my base university that has been stopping me from connecting to the internet here and limiting the things I can do while we meet. I hope to resolve the issue before the beginning of next week, as well as set up a remote desktop so I will be able to access a faster computer to render my virtual humans. Outside of the project, I have been trying many new restaurants and getting to know my cohort. Talking about each others project has given us a clarity about our ideas and goals in our projects.

Enhancing Trust in Telepresence: The Influence of Familiarity and Varied Eye Contact on Trust in Look-Alike Avatars

Kriti Kalary, SUNY University at Albany / SUNY Upstate Medical School

Week 1:

I arrived in New York City on Sunday and we kicked off the REU program with an icebreaker social event. I met the rest of my REU cohort while bowling (I wasn’t very good!). All too soon, we jumped right into work. I met with my mentor, Dr. Wole, and started brainstorming ideas for my proposal due on Friday. I worked to narrow down my field of interest and land on a unique yet interesting idea for my project—I had to toss out a lot of ideas before ending up with something I was happy with. This week also started off our first few classes of Dr. Wole’s VR, AR and MR course which has been incredibly interesting so far. I spent the rest of the week furiously searching for relevant articles to include in my literature review, trying to round out my rationale and support my research proposal. For fun this week, I met a friend in Central Park and tried some great bagels!

Week 2:

Week two was equal parts work and fun! I had a couple of road bumps this week where I had to alter my proposal a bit to make it more unique. Luckily, my older research for my literature review from last week was still helpful and I was able to collect all the information that I needed for my paper without too much trouble. This week, I finished my introduction and related works section of my paper, created a figure for the theoretical model of my paper and started outlining my methodology.

I also downloaded reallusion and tried to get character creator to work on my macbook through parallels, but it took too long to load. The headshot plugin worked well, so I will likely end up working on the software aspect of my project next week on the computers at CUNY Hunter. For fun this week, Or, Asmita and I went to the Chelsea Market, some of my friends came up to visit me and we explored Central Park. I also listened to a performance by the NY Philharmonic and saw fireworks!

Utilizing Paraview to Visualize and Analyze FNDC1

Asmita Deb

Week 1

This week we first started by bowling and getting to know everybody that we would be working with for the next 8 weeks. It was a great team bonding experience and by Monday, when we stepped into Hunter College, everything went smoothly! We went up to a conference room and met with the mentors of everyone in the REU and then we took a tour of the college itself. We came back up and were told our tasks for the week and then left. The next few days were dedicated to creating a proposal for our project that would satisfy our mentor, Dr. Wole, and ourselves. On Wednesday we submitted and discussed our drafted proposals and then finalized them to be submitted on Overleaf. Throughout this we also watched many lecture videos that introduced us to VR/AR and the research tools we would be using. The project that I am planning on focusing on is the utilization of Paraview, a scientific visualization software, to analyze and visualize a protein called FNDC1 whose overexpression is associated with multiple cancers.

Week 2

This week I worked on my literature review. I found about 4-5 sources about the protein, FNDC1, and also using visualization software and how it could benefit the research of understudied proteins. This was the first time I used OverLeaf, but it was easy to get the hang of. I also played around with Paraview all week and downloaded both of my files. I’ve been editing them, but I will be also trying VMD next week, just to see the differences. I also figured out what type of user study I wanted to conduct and what I wanted to specifically write about in my paper. Throughout the week I also enjoyed good food, fun activities, and bonding with the other interns!

Hunter College
City University of New York
HN-1001T
695 Park Ave
New York, NY 10065

Telephone: +1 (212) 396-6837
Email: oo700 at hunter dot cuny dot edu

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