STEM Fest in DC!

The USA Science & Engineering Festival is the largest celebration of STEM education – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – in the nation. On April 6, 7, and 8, 2018, more than 350,000 people descended on the expo where 3,000+ hands-on exhibits were staged by the world’s leading science and engineering societies, universities, government agencies, and high-tech corporations and organizations. And we were there!

Hosting a wide array of virtual reality experiences, we engaged with more than 3,000 users – many of who became repeat performers. Our users braved the waters and swam with sharks, played with pollinators in a giant garden, and watched a total solar eclipse.

Other virtual experiences featured some of nature’s most luminous life forms …  users learned about the chemistry behind the magical glow of fireflies, and the flashes of light in the deep sea created by bioluminescent organisms. Virtual reality presented the ideal medium for teaching about life thousands of feet below sea where inky darkness reigns. How else can we show and explain the brilliant blue alarm radiating from a frightened midwater jellyfish, or the unique yellow sparks spilling from a disturbed marine worm? Only an immersive experience in a virtual ocean can accomplish such a task.

We are now onto our next challenge – creating and engaging dragons in virtual and augmented realities. Stay tuned!

VR Headsets

2018 is proving itself to be a very exciting year for virtual reality. While VR headsets offering truly immersive experiences, like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift have been in place for a bit, both cost upwards of $400-$500, require high speed internet connection, and expensive gaming computers and graphics cards.

Powers Communications has used the HTC Vive, widely acknowledged as the best VR headset on the market, as our vehicle of choice for our original VR experiences.  The quality of the graphics and the depth of the immersive experience are peerless. However, it does have its downsides. Aside from cost, it is heavy, it has a thick cable running down from the back of the headset tethering you to a laptop, and it is awkward to place it on a user’s head at tradeshows and conferences. For smaller venues and events, we use the Samsung Gear VR, which offers impressive graphics, but not an equally impressive immersive experience.

Things are really up this year with new standalone technology premiering from Vive and Facebook-backed Oculus. The HTC Vive Pro is said to offer the same spectacular immersive experience, but in an untethered, wireless headset. Starting at $800, it remains a pricey option, but we’re betting it will be worth it. Also debuting this year is the more kindly-priced Oculus Go, starting at $200. A more impressive and immersive experience than the Samsung Gear, no wires or smartphones required, and an affordable price make this headset one we can’t wait for.


An exciting new interactive exhibit opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario in July of 2017. Artist Alex Mayhew created ReBlink, an augmented reality app that transforms the gallery viewing experience. Nine historic paintings from the Gallery’s permanent collection are remixed with modern day references, transforming the subjects into living, animated participants engaged in everyday activities. The result is greater engagement of visitors with the art, extending their time spent with an individual piece, and deepening their appreciation of the work. While this experience is only available at AGO, early concepts by the same artist have shown how this exhibit could be remotely accessible in digital format. Using the advanced capabilities of ARCore and ARKit, the artwork is presented as a portal the user can enter and explore. This is possible due to the advanced mapping and tracking abilities that ARCore and ARKit provide for developers.

Powers has used similar emerging technology to explore miniature works of art, to experience a total solar eclipse, and to understand the mechanics of bioluminescent life forms. We are currently engaged in developing virtual and augmented reality experiences with dragons. We understand how to best apply new and emerging technologies to educate, engage and entertain.