Building VR/AR Applications in School

What would you build if you had 10 weeks and access to Microsoft HoloLens and HTC Vive equipment and developers?

Imagine if you could work with virtual reality hardware and software for class, with access to the software programmers and teams who created your tools. What would you build? Computer science students at the University of Washington in Seattle got this unusual chance earlier this year.

For 10 weeks, they created software apps using VR hardware and software with access to the teams who created the tools. There was a lot of back and forth about what the tools could do, as well as ideas how to improve them. The teams that built the hardware and software got the opportunity to see their work used the real world.

While we can’t be part of this unusual class, the professors and students posted a lot of their work online. Here are some of the apps they created. And the online article has links you can follow.


Use an actual virtual piano to learn how to play the piano. This app shows you what piano keys to press as you learn. More patient than a real life piano teacher, this app lets you learn at your own pace, repeating lessons until you memorize the lessons.


Instead of looking at your phone or other computer to read instructions, this app creates a platform that makes it possible to create tutorials and content to teach skills. You are shown the steps for the recipe with descriptions and ingredient lists for each step.




This augmented reality game can be played by one or two people. You fly a paper airplane around the room to navigate waypoints.



Titan Fightin’

This game lets you be the monster and fight your friends. Or work with your friends to take down the monster. Created for the HTC Vive headset and controllers, this game is an asymmetric multiplayer game. One player uses the Vive equipment to be the monster while other players use a VR headset and work together to fly jets to try and take down the monster.


According to Geekwire, the two professors who taught the course, Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman and Steve Seitz, acted as venture capitalists instead of teachers telling the students what to create. Students came up with ideas then worked with their professors to refine their ideas to what could be built in 10 weeks.

Students got the hands on opportunity to experience the current technical limits of virtual reality and augmented reality software tools and hardware. During the ten weeks, there was lots of failure and trial and error to create software that worked using Unity and other development tools.

The class also featured a weekly speaker from computer scientists and technologists building this new technology, including Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist at Oculus, Google artists Drew Stillman and Patrick Hackett who created the VR app Tilt Brush, and Neal Stephenson, futurist and author of Snow Crash. Many of the lectures are online at YouTube, with links in the online article.

If this sort of class interests you, it’s a wonderful reason to work to get into their school and schools like the University of Washington.

Learn More

Inside the ‘world’s first HoloLens class’: UW computer science students show mixed reality projects

Students demonstrate their HoloLens apps after a quarter of VR and AR design

CSE 481 Virtual and Augmented Reality Capstone

CSE 481v Speakers

CSE 481v Teams

Ira Kemelmacher-Schlizerman

Steven Seitz

Titan Fightin’





Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLab)

Neal Stephenson

Nick Whiting: How to Make VR Content Quickly

Brian Murphy: Sculpting with Light

Michael Abrash:

Michael Fourlay: Insider Tips for Developing on VR & AR Platforms

Alex Kipman


HTC Vive



  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

Also In The October 2016 Issue

Virtual and augmented reality replace or add computing to our real world experience.

What would you build if you had 10 weeks and access to Microsoft HoloLens and HTC Vive equipment and developers?

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Links from the bottom of all the October 2016 articles, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for October 2016.

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