Ball State granted rights to develop $10 million Blue Mars virtual world technology

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, College of Fine Arts, Emerging Media

March 5, 2012

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The future of virtual worlds has a new home at Ball State University, thanks to the generosity of Avatar Reality Inc., which granted the university rights to the multimillion-dollar 3-D virtual world platform, Blue Mars.

Blue Mars' creator, Hawaii-based Avatar Reality, has provided expanded rights to the technology, valued at $10 million in research and development, to Ball State for 3-D simulation and research projects beyond the world of gaming.

"We are honored to have our institution selected to build upon the tremendous innovations within Avatar Reality's Blue Mars platform," said John Fillwalk, director of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts (IDIA) and senior director of Ball State's Hybrid Design Technologies initiative. "This partnership between Avatar Reality and Ball State is an unprecedented gesture and a great distinction."

Since 2009, Ball State's IDIA has been a leading developer for Blue Mars, employing the virtual platform on projects such as digital laser scans of a centuries-old Buddha and the creation of the Virtual Middletown Project. The project, which ushers visitors via their computers into the world of the early 20th-century Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Co., is one example of the cultural heritage work possible with Blue Mars. Another is IDIA's simulation of the 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco.

"Avatar Reality designed in Blue Mars a next-generation 3-D platform that greatly advanced the graphic fidelity, functionality and scalability of virtual worlds — well beyond current standards," Fillwalk said. "Its strategy connected social spaces across devices, from high-performance desktops to mobile phones. Our goal is to build upon both its technology and vision for the future of virtual worlds. "

Recognition speaks to reputation 

Phil Repp, Ball State's vice president for information technology, said the new agreement with Avatar Reality can be traced to Fillwalk's commitment to advancing IDIA to the national level.  

"The fact that other universities — and many of them of very high caliber — are working hard to gain expertise in hybrid worlds and that Ball State was identified as the university most likely to further develop this technology speaks volumes about our reputation, experience and abilities," Repp said. "It's an honor for Ball State and John to be singled out with this kind of recognition."

Under Ball State's terms of agreement with Avatar Reality, the university will begin to fully operate Blue Mars for noncommercial purposes, expand upon the source code, increase its research and academic initiatives, and enhance the community of Blue Mars. In addition, Ball State will deliver original content on Blue Mars as it has done in the past. Existing commercial activity will continue to be operated and supported by Avatar Reality, Inc.

"I am really excited about the future," Repp said. "Through our division of Hybrid Design Technologies, Ball State will further our position as a national leader in hybrid worlds and their applications to mediated learning technologies. Our reputation in this discipline is such a perfect fit to our institutional history of innovation in teaching and learning."

About Ball State: Located in Muncie, Ind., Ball State University is redefining education by providing relevant, immersive learning experiences that engage high-caliber students in intense interdisciplinary projects both in and out of the classroom. Its vibrant campus is home to about 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students from across the country and abroad. Learn more at www.bsu.edu.

About Blue Mars: Developed by Avatar Reality Inc., Blue Mars is a premium 3-D virtual world platform featuring unparalleled interactivity, fidelity, scalability and security, and it enables artists and developers to create and distribute interactive 3-D experiences to a global audience. Blue Mars launched in open beta in October 2009 and began selling virtual land to third party developers in January 2010. Blue Mars Mobile, an iOS app based on the content and technology from the virtual world, was introduced in February 2011.

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