I hold in my hands what looks and feels like a wand from a Harry Potter film. But this isn’t one of the cheap replicas you can buy in a souvenir shop. It was 3D-printed right here, in the high-tech workshop where I’m standing. And once I put on a HoloLens headset, it’s incredibly effective against the hordes of advancing dementors.
The game—and the wand—were developed by Pat Starace, director of the digital fabrication course at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. Over a 20-year career, Starace has produced a huge range of models, special effects, and animations for motion pictures and television, including the iconic 1979 title sequence from 60 Minutes. At Full Sail, he teaches students the rapid prototyping techniques needed to convert 3-D drawings into objects like magic wands, while also working on his own projects (like an animatronic toucan and a 3D-printed prosthetic hand modeled after Iron Man’s glove).
The Dementor game was built to explore switching between augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) within the same experience: Players can either blast Dementors rushing at them from all sides of their living room, or be transported to what looks like a room at Hogwarts. In the industry, this type of game is still considered blue-sky thinking—experiences tend to be segmented into AR or VR—but students vying for Full Sail’s Simulation and Visualization bachelor degree, launched in 2016, are encouraged to think big. Already, this blended approach is being embraced by industry players like Microsoft.
“We talk about VR and AR as their own separate industries, but they are in fact simply screens into a virtual world,” says Full Sail program director Rob Catto. “The difference is that the screens actually put you into that world. VR is about much more than just putting on a headset; it’s about all of your senses.”
As with Hogwarts wizards, training AR/VR wizards is a…