Virtual reality (VR), alternative reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) are three closely related emerging technologies suddenly facing high demand from enterprising technology companies. As such new technologies, though, there is a dearth of expertise to develop the software. On April 1, the Virtual Reality Professional Academy opened in Ochanomizu, Tokyo, Japan's first school dedicated to the subject. It will try to address the gap between supply and demand.
The school held a workshop in November for the 350 applicants that had passed its screening process; those students have since been further whittled down to a mere 30. (The school's website claims that classes will be limited to 20 students each.) Classes are held for five hours each Saturday afternoon, with additional online "quest" work assigned during the week. Classes are taught by engineers working in the field called "meisters" or "mentors." The RPG flair continues with the "guilds" the school includes: communities that let students and alumni network with professionals, stay on top of new developments in the field, and help with their job hunt. An additional benefit for students is the lack of tuition: the school is funded by companies eager to foster fresh talent.
Although classes are full, the ones that are currently on offer are the Creator Course, which uses the program Unity as a tutorial in VR development, and the Engineer Course, which explains the technical principles behind VR. The school will also offer a Business Planner Training Seminar, which trains students to become planners and directors of VR. Courses last three months. The academy has also been hosting regular business forums since last August to let VR developers share their research; they will present their findings in July at VR Contents Fes 2017.
Colleges in Japan in general are facing a crunch due to declining enrollment numbers; 40% of colleges in Japan laid off staff in 2015, and many private and specialty schools are closing. Meanwhile, VR is becoming all the rage; everything from Gal Gun to Re:ZERO is putting it to use.