Conjuring Up MAGIC

Published Jan. 6, 2014

RIT’s new MAGIC Center will focus on supporting students, faculty and staff in turning ideas into marketable products. MAGIC—the Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity, located in Student Innovation Hall—has been created to help RIT innovators hone in on the burgeoning field of digital media—including games, apps and software—which, according to researchers, is changing the way we communicate, learn and think.

“After a summer of construction, Student Innovation Hall has been transformed into a space that will allow multiple things to happen at one time,” says Andrew Phelps, founding director of the MAGIC Center. “MAGIC represents an opportunity for the entire university to moveforward in our continuing mission of excellencein digital and creative media.”

The center is comprised of two parts: The RIT Laboratory for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity, and MAGIC Spell Studios.

The RIT Laboratory for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity

A non-profit university-wide research and development laboratory, the RIT Laboratory for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity is a cross-disciplinary hub where student, faculty and staff researchers, artists and practitioners come together to learn about and create digital media.

MAGIC Labs and Research Groups

  • FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) @ MAGIC
  • The Lab for Technological Literacy
  • The Lab for Social Computing
  • The Mobile Zone @ MAGIC
  • The Museum Games & Technology Initiative

MAGIC Center Projects

Mindgamers, a video game for people with anxiety and/or autism spectrum disorder, is designed for players to have their “best day” in school. A team of mental-health and game-design students and professionals are working on the project, including Laurence Sugarman, Institute of Health Sciences and Technology; Stephen Jacobs, Interactive Games and Media; and Robert Rice Jr., director of clinical internships in the Mental Health Counseling Program at St. John Fisher College.

Sky Time is an educational game designed to teach kindergarten through second-grade students how to tell time. It was initially developed as a class project in a Humanitarian Free and Open-Source Software course designed by Professor Stephen Jacobs. In July 2013, Sky Time was selected for the White House Champions of Change event, which honors civic hackers who are doing extraordinary things with technology.

Lazy Eye Shooter is a video game that helps improve the treatment of amblyopia, or lazy eye, in adults. Currently funded by the National Eye Institute, the Office of Naval Research and the McDonnell Foundation, the game uses first-person shooters to increase visual acuity. Jessica Bayliss, associate professor in the School for Interactive Games and Media, is the principal investigator and is currently developing a non-violent children’s version of the game.

“For years, the university had been developing pockets of expertise in digital media, with a wealth of individuals doing interesting things in the game design, digital humanities and new media design spaces,” says Andrew Phelps, founding director of The MAGIC Center. “However, RIT is a large campus and people were having difficulty communicating and sharing ideas.”

According to Phelps, the lab solves this problem, acting as an intellectual and creative home for affiliated faculty from across the university to share these ideas. The computer lab is equipped with 25 Alienware Aurora 6 Core gaming desktops and a Mobile Zone, with supplies for any project involving mobile phone and tablet technologies.

“I envision the space as a place for those water-cooler conversations to happen,” says Elizabeth Goins, an assistant professor of fine arts and the museum studies program in RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, who teaches Interactive Design for Museums. “People from overlapping fields will come together to collaborate and make projects more dynamic.”

In addition to making it easier to recruit student artists and game designers for digital- media projects, the center also provides space for students to continue their projects beyond the confines of one or two semesters.

MAGIC Spell Studios

MAGIC Spell Studios is a for-profit production studio that will help students, faculty and staff as they bring their ideas from prototype to commercial production in the marketplace.

Projects in the studio will be aligned with the university in a way that allows owners to make creative products without theoverhead and business management extras that come with owning a company.

“The commercial production side of the center also allows the university to employ the financial concepts that make digital media studios work, such as profit sharing, revenue splits, deferred compensation, market bonuses and intellectual property negotiations,” Phelps explains. “Being able to embed a production studio directly into the student experience will provide true professional experience and an amazing learning opportunity.”

The heart of the center remains open space for speakers and events like hack-a-thons. Plans are underway to install a 320-degree panoramic projection screen.

“It will be really interesting to put gaming students, grade school educators or medical teams in this mini IMAX and see what kind of visualization concepts and educational experiences they develop,” says Phelps.

Student Innovation Hall also houses the Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which will work closely with the MAGIC Center to help students realize their entrepreneurial spirit.