Josh Maldonado, creator of Vessels VR. PHOTO: SIERRA BEIN

RTA students’ thesis project gets kickstarted

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By Lana Hall

A virtual reality program being developed by a team of fourth-year radio and television arts (RTA) students is set to launch next month after reaching its funding goal through Kickstarter.

Vessels Virtual Reality (VR), created by Josh Maldonado, is an educational program designed to simulate being immersed in the human circulatory system; shuttling the user through veins and arteries.

The experience requires the use of the Oculus Rift, a powerful VR headset. To develop a program compatible with it, Maldonado and his team require specialized software and must pay a monthly licensing fee that enables them to work within a specific 3D development environment.

Since Vessels VR is being developed as a research project through Ryerson’s Transmedia Zone, the team has access to a workspace and mentorship, but the Zone does not provide financial assistance.

To cover some of their costs, Maldonado and his team launched a crowdsourcing campaign on Kickstarter. In 30 days, the team reached their funding goal of $2,300.

“We got a lot of response from other fourth-year students,” said Brenda Grajales, director of marketing and communications for Vessels VR. “Which was surprising, because of course, they are all busy with their own final projects as well.”

Their fellow students are not the only ones interested to see the outcome of the project.

“We are really excited about this for several reasons,” said Ramona Pringle, acting director at the Transmedia Zone. “It’s a fascinating use of technology.”

In fact, she says, it is the first project incubated at the zone that is dedicated to the Oculus Rift.

The project has substance behind it, in addition to exploring state of the-art technology.

“They are interested in not just novelty, but narrative.” The team plans to have the project completed by mid-February and is planning a screening party later in the month, where students will be able to try the experience out for themselves.

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