ARTISTS AND STUDENTS at Ringling College of Art and Design have often used their art to give viewers a glimpse into another world, but now, thanks to the new Virtual Reality Development major offered beginning Fall 2018, they will take audiences there in a way never before possible. Whereas illustration can offer a detailed look at a new world, and a computer game from the Game Art department can even let the user interact with it to some degree, the advent of virtual reality allows for full immersion into that world. “True virtual reality gives the user a sense of agency,” says Professor Jim McCampbell, who will head the new department. “This level of immersion isn’t possible with a linear narrative film.” Instead of focusing their time explicitly on how to create individual items in a computer-generated world or sketch a photorealistic or fantastic visage, VR students will devote considerable time to learning something called visual scripting—how to chain all of these computer-generated objects together into one world that responds to a user’s presence as much as it does their commands. It’s still storytelling, says McCampbell, “but it is a story in which you are a participant, not just an observer.” And while futures in virtual reality gaming or virtual reality entertainment stand out in terms of glamor and glitz, a degree in VR development opens doors in a variety of fields, including healthcare, architecture, education and tourism. A project more than two years in the making for McCampbell, who in that time also led the Ringling College Computer Animation department to national success, once the planned VR lab arrives, the exploration begins in earnest. “There is so much that remains undiscovered,” he says. “On a national and international scale, this major reaffirms our commitment to what we are best known for—the fusion of art and technology.”