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Grants From Edward St. John Foundation, Others to Support Maryland Blended Reality Center

By Maryland Today Staff

A $50,000 grant from the Edward St. John Foundation to the Maryland Blended Reality Center (MBRC) will support the use of new immersive technologies for education, humanitarian purposes and social change.

It’s being matched by $25,000 from the University of Maryland, College Park, and $25,000 from the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, University of Maryland, and supports MBRC’s development of innovative devices and education modules that use virtual and augmented reality.

The center is already prototyping and testing these immersive tools—which combine high-end computer graphics with intuitive user interfaces—for medical diagnostics, surgical training, non-opioid pain management, the performing arts and more.

“The Edward St. John Foundation is proud to support the dedication and leadership of the Maryland Blended Reality Center’s co-directors, Sarah Murthi and Amitabh Varshney, as they develop new tools and technologies that can transform health care and education and encourage social change,” said Sharon L. Akers, president of the foundation. “We’re particularly gratified that some of their work is already benefiting Baltimore-area residents, and we look forward to the center expanding its education and outreach efforts.”

Murthi, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Varshney, a professor of computer science and dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, are working closely with foundation officials to determine specific uses for the new funding.

New initiatives will include expanding MBRC’s efforts in developing virtual reality tools for surgical education and training; summer internships for students interested in using immersive technologies for social change; and assisting people with limited mobility to experience new sights and sounds that previously might have been inaccessible, while simultaneously reducing their use of opioids for pain management.

MBRC, launched in 2017, joins physicians and clinicians at the University of Maryland, Baltimore with computer science experts at the University of Maryland, College Park. Originally funded by the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State, the center has since received additional funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Prince George’s County Police Department.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.