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XR Foundations: Designer

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Student Spotlight: Matt Thompson

August 10, 2020

Student Profile

Matt Thompson participated in XR Terra’s inaugural AR x VR Developer Program in 2020. His technical career began in 3D animation, and after completing Launch Academy’s 18-week coding bootcamp, he immersed himself in programming as a full-time software engineer at a Boston-based digital agency and application development company. With a passion for gaming and novel problem-solving, Matt continued to pursue his personal passions at MIT Reality Hack, Boston VR Meetups, and other events. Read on to learn more about Matt’s career journey and his experience with XR Terra’s development-focused 12-week bootcamp.

What was your initial motivation for taking the AR VR Developer course?
I was tinkering with XR for years in different frameworks and technologies. Over time, Unity has emerged as the industry standard tool for XR development and I wanted to sharpen my skill set and learn best practices. My experience was only as a hobby and I was looking for a structured approach to take my AR VR development skills to the next level. The XR Terra classes would position me to learn from professionals in the XR field, as well as work on industry projects, professionalizing my skill set.

How would you describe your experience with the program?
Despite having a lot of XR experience, my work was mostly in frameworks that are all code. Up until the class, I had never spent time in the Unity editor. Nevertheless, I was up to speed in no time as the class is pretty comprehensive covering AR and VR in detail, exposing students to a lot of different tools. Besides being really fun to work in, adding XR to one’s development toolset is a great way to stand out. On the flip side of things, whatever your current programming discipline is, you can apply those unique skills to XR.

What was your favourite project in the XR Terra program?
I really wanted to explore hand tracking and gesture recognition as well as put my day job skills of working with APIs to use. I created Binance VR as a demo application to apply the skills I learnt and my interests in XR interaction. The Coin data is pulled down in real time and users can configure a number of different panels to display price and other information.

What ancillary benefits have you gained as a result of being in the course?
Well, this one might not be so relevant in a year (let’s hope) but during the pandemic, having a regular schedule to focus on learning along with the virtual company of the rest of the cohort made dealing with the stress of lockdown easier to endure. It’s also a great way to work through a lot of content with other people who share in what you are going through.

What have you been upto after completing the XR Terra AR VR Development bootcamp?
I have recently taken a CTO position with BitReel, a startup company that utilizes AR to support retailers. We create a photorealistic digital twin of stores, so shoppers can easily navigate through the store on a desktop or mobile device. These visuals are complemented with ambisonics and haptics to create a truly immersive experience.

What advice would you give someone about to attend the program?
Even though the program schedule is part time so that you can continue to work, be prepared to sink plenty of extra hours into projects on your own time. Bootcamps give you the tools, examples, and technical assistance when you are stuck, but it’s really up to the students to continue digging in and learning through their own explorations and continue deeper down paths after the doors are opened to see what you can really do on your own.

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