The Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, in collaboration with the city of Phoenix, presented "Phoenix: The Global City of the Future," an immersive technology-driven experience held Feb. 9–11.
The series of events featured extended reality (XR) assets, blending history and technology as participants interacted with digital content overlaid with the physical world, placing Phoenix in a new dimension.
Thunderbird students, staff, Arizona residents and visitors from around the world explored downtown Phoenix through a cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) scavenger hunt.
Attendees were able to discover historical sites selected by a team of local historians to show the city as it was and where it is going, all powered by Thunderbird's technology.
The locations chosen for the AR scavenger hunt included the Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square, Orpheum Theatre, Hotel San Carlos, Burton Barr Library, Union Station in the Warehouse District and Thunderbird Global Headquarters.
"Thunderbird was honored to partner with the city of Phoenix to bring this augmented reality experience to our communities while highlighting Phoenix as the global city of the future," said Sanjeev Khagram, director general and dean of ASU Thunderbird. "As we welcomed guests from all over the world to Phoenix, we were able to showcase the best of what Phoenix and Thunderbird have to offer through a truly immersive and unforgettable visitor experience."
To access the extended reality content, attendees downloaded the VueXR app and scanned QR codes located throughout Thunderbird Global Headquarters and downtown Phoenix.
The Metaverse Lab at Thunderbird was also open, allowing attendees to turn themselves into digital avatars through volumetric capture technology. Over 70 participants were scanned, the most people to be volumetrically captured in a three-day period, according to Travis Cloyd, global futurist and professor of practice at Thunderbird.
"The future of user engagement with media is expanding beyond the 2D world and entering our 3D spatial environments," Cloyd said. "This shift is being driven by the continuous advancements in consumer hardware, mobile computing and augmented reality experiences that seamlessly integrate into our daily activities.”
Thunderbird hosts special guests
During that week, Thunderbird hosted over 250 students from neighboring districts for Dream Hustle Code’s TechSlam event, as well as other local and national organizations, including the National Football League Alumni Association and ASU’s Learning Enterprise team.
"It was an honor to be a part of the festivities,” said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of Learning Enterprise at ASU and recent recipient of the Inca Cola Community Empowerment Award. “A highlight was touring Thunderbird’s Innovation Center and Metaverse Lab, which showcased the best of our community's creativity in designing world-class learning experiences.”
The state-of-the-art Innovation Center at Thunderbird Global Headquarters was also a major highlight, showcasing its advanced technology with guided tours in 4D immersive Positron chairs and digital games on its global collaboration tables.
“More than 1,000 people across downtown experienced this future technology and learned more about the rich culture, history and innovation that is the fabric of Phoenix,” Mayor Kate Gallego said. “The augmented reality experience showcases where we have been and where we are going in a more immersive way. It was incredible to work with Thunderbird’s technology team to introduce residents and visitors to our city in such a unique way.”
In addition to experiencing the immersive technology, visitors were also treated to a special presentation featuring David Knower, a Thunderbird alumnus from the class of 1985 and the chairman of the advisory board of the European League of Football.
With many Thunderbird students in the audience, Knower discussed globalization in the NFL but also recalled his days as a T-bird and reflected on his own personal leadership philosophies.
“Work hard, play hard, people are your most important asset and communication — these are the three things I encourage our students to follow and try to exemplify. It will pay off in dividends,” Knower said.
“It was truly inspiring to hear (David Knower’s) story of how he has come so far from his days at Thunderbird and (developed) something that has revolutionized sport in Europe and especially football,” said Aaditya Ugale, a first-year Master of Global Management student.
Former NFL players from around the world were also in attendance, including Sebastian Vollmer and Markus Kuhn, who were both born in Germany and went on to play in the NFL.
"David Knower epitomizes the T-bird spirit — smart, resourceful, globally aware and very successful,” said Chris Howard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Arizona State University and an attendee at the event. “His presentation struck the perfect balance between personal reflection and gratitude coupled with a keen understanding of international business, finance and sport."
These technology-driven experiences pioneered by Thunderbird showcase the early stages of user experiences in augmented reality — and set a new standard for what’s to come.
“By displaying digital assets in their local environments, people from all over the world came together and witnessed the potential of this emerging technology," Cloyd said.
According to Cloyd, ASU Thunderbird offered more than 100 augmented reality assets during the events, including over 35 standard AR assets, all providing an unforgettable and innovative experience for attendees via scanning markers or using GPS technology.
This type of fan experience is one that Cloyd says will start to take off in a profound way.
“I am proud of Thunderbird’s role in powering this experience for Phoenix and its visitors. I haven’t seen any other school do something like this. I look forward to our future events — even bigger and bolder — with the city of Phoenix and other organizations. Phoenix truly is the city of the future,” Cloyd said.
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