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Students Develop Cutting- Edge Prototypes

iSchool student Semeon Risom cheers in the background as a smiling student uses his VR prototype

In the Texas iSchool’s Interaction Design class, students learn to “put it all together,” says Dr. Fleming Seay, a longtime adjunct faculty member and senior principal UX engineer at Dell. The project-based course in design thinking allows students to tackle a real-world problem of their choice by gathering and interpreting data, and transforming the implications of that data into a prototype design that is then tested and refined.

“I’m always impressed with how prescient the students are when it comes to project topics,” he says, noting that over the years, his students have developed prototypes that anticipated Google Maps, Foursquare, and Tinder. One student developed a concept for an e-reader and digital store before there was a Kindle. “I’d say we have at least one incubator-worthy concept per class, often two or three.”

Texas iSchool student Semeon Risom recently led a team that developed a prototype for an app to promote physical fitness for elderly people through virtual-reality technology. The app allows users to walk, jog, bike, or paddle in virtual settings of their choice. Semeon continued to work on the app after completing Dr. Seay’s class and demonstrated it at the iSchool Open House in Spring 2017.

During the demonstration, users of Semeon’s app pedaled a stationary bicycle while wearing a VR headset, creating the sensation of mountain-biking on a forest trail. “The application is called ViRtually Young,” said Semeon. “It allows someone who is elderly or who otherwise may not be able to perform the exercise activities they’d like to do, to do that in a safe environment, whether that’s in their home, at a doctor’s office or with a physical therapist.”