About the Program

This concentration is designed and led by Founding Director Gabo Arora along with the industry’s award-winning creative pioneers. Its mission is to utilize and contextualize dominant emerging technologies—including virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence—for artistic expression and social impact.

The Faculty, Artists in Residence, Research Fellows, and Guest Lecturers create projects, research and develop new tools and offer courses that provide new perspectives on how technology shapes our relation to the world, to others and—most importantly—ourselves. Experimentation is encouraged. Recent student projects have included aspects of ethnography, experimental art, data visualization, animation, oral history, and narrative VR.

This new concentration will accelerate aspiring creators’ understanding of dominant emerging technologies including virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. The MA in Film & Media program at Johns Hopkins University is the first Film & Media degree in the country to offer a full curriculum dedicated to Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technologies.

ISET Methodology

The ISET concentration is a highly collaborative educational experience focused on expanding the horizons of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality/Artificial Intelligence storytelling, as well as developing innovative uses for this technology across disciplines. In each course, students are guided by interdisciplinary experts to leverage immersive tech as a vehicle for change in discipline, industry, social issues, or other applicable challenges. These may include applications to medicine, public health, education, media arts, diplomacy, and business.

Each class will have a mix of students with different backgrounds, including computer programming, visual art, journalism, filmmaking, and music, who will come together through their focus on innovative storytelling. Innovation and collaboration are at the core of this project-based concentration, where students are expected to develop the skills and perspectives needed to create engaging storytelling through emerging technology. These stories will be designed to engage audiences and leave them thinking about vital business, policy, and social issues.

ISET is the Future

VR and AR technologies represent the next stage in the evolution of how we interact with information, entertainment, and one another. The applications are endless and will create unprecedented amounts of opportunities and innovations across multiple sectors on a global scale. Already, VR and AR are transforming medicine, education, and content creation. This transformation will only continue, and on a larger scale and an increasingly faster pace, as the technology matures and its market share increases.

The VR/AR industry is growing rapidly. According to a 2016 report by Citigroup, the VR/AR sector has seen nearly $3 billion in investments nationally over the past two years. The report also projects that the global VR/AR market could grow to $2.16 trillion by 2035 as different industries and applications make use of these new technologies.

This program will prepare students for jobs in creative media companies, global IT companies, 3D graphics, and product design. Students will learn in a multidisciplinary environment where they will gain a broad understanding of the various ways that immersive technologies are being used and developed. Students who complete the concentration will be prepared to fill key positions such as VR operator; Senior Gaming and VR Engineers; VR Director; Experience Designer; and, AR/VR Developer to name a few.

Johns Hopkins University is uniquely positioned to become a leader in VR/AR due to its diverse talent pool and strong academic reputations in fields destined to be affected by these new technologies. A 2016 Goldman Sachs report identified healthcare, education, real estate, retail, live entertainment, and video entertainment as those most likely to be impacted by VR/AR.

ISET Courses

This introductory course will provide students with the tools and the mindset for making compelling VR/AR experiences. While the industry is nascent, technological innovations move forward at breakneck speed. Each class, students will dissect media to understand the approaches to the current catalog of immersive experiences, ranging from 360 film, to animation and room-scale installation experiences.  Students will often complete this exercise with the media creators to better understand the challenges and lessons learned. Subsequently, after this overview, students will have the opportunity to build their own prototypes and to assist a leading artist with a VR/AR project housed within the program.

This course will enable students to study and design projects that affect the way we see the world. Covering the topics of immersion and narration in the new immersive media landscape, it will also discuss questions of flow, art history, and the goal of social impact. Each session will include case studies, and presentation by experts followed by in-class discussions.

Humanity at once refers both to all human beings, in their different forms and manifestations, and to standards of humaneness – including love, benevolence, care, and dignity. This course will examine questions of how are we to be in this world (individually and collectively) with technology; how are we now; and how should we be. It will do so by engaging in a wide-ranging survey – delving into questions of ethics (of information, of privacy, of environment) and complexifying what forms of knowledge we ascribe value to (drawing on indigeneity and indigenous forms of knowledge, for example). The course will then examine specific instances of humane applications of new technology in the fields of peacemaking and peacebuilding, psychiatry and intergroup relations, and storytelling by those on the margins (indigenous communities, victims of climate change, conflict and violence, and the socioeconomically disempowered). From that point, using a speculative design and thinking framework, the course will challenge students to reflect on desirable and undesirable futures, and likely futures. With a backcasting approach, the course will ask students to consider what systems, milestones, decisions, activities, policies and strategies need to be in place to effect desirable futures.

An introductory course that provides students with an overview of the process to create innovative and meaningful cinematic stories in the evolving field of interactive games. From concept to completion, the class will explore the creative architecture, production process and technical considerations necessary for developing for the new wave of interactive entertainment across platforms. Drawing from theoretical and production frameworks in game design, narrative and documentary filmmaking, art, immersive theatre, and motion capture––critical attention will be given to intuitive and engaging design. The hands-on portion of the class will culminate with students developing a prototype for their own original interactive cinematic project.

This intermediate course takes you through the workflows of producing compelling narratives with emerging technologies like VR, AR and AI. Students will get an opportunity to work collectively on a project with the deadlines, pressures and challenges that come with delivering a quality product for a world-class client. Students will also prototype existing ideas and proposals developed in other ISET courses, or new ideas generated from class, to create something that can be showcased in their portfolio, or be utilized long term as a capstone project. Prerequisite: Students must have taken as least one ISET course though some exceptions will be granted on a case by case basis.

Immersive technology is revolutionizing the relationship between storytellers and their audiences. But we still know very little about the cultural, ethical, and psychological implications of such interactive interfaces. While it is clear the integration of VR/AR/AI will revolutionize multiple aspects of our society, careful consideration is required when extrapolating its benefits to media consumers. As the new medium evolves, students will learn how to evaluate empathy, identity, privacy, in addition to immersion, efficiency, and productivity.

This course will cover designing immersive tech concepts, stories, or games with social and cultural impact. Students will address the various components of immersive experience including narrative flow, art, interaction design, and social impact objectives. Each session will include case studies, industry best practices, and presentations by experts followed by in-class discussions.

Virtual reality is a powerful tool providing a 360-degree view of the story.  It catapults participants right into the middle of the action, breaking physical and economic barriers by enabling them to travel into different environments and explore new realities.  Each session will introduce students to VR films and review published 360 video formats. In addition to a comprehensive overview into the technology, its history, as well as current and future uses, students will learn how to plan, produce, and edit stories in VR.

The AR/MR course teaches students how to create new immersive AR formats for publication, exhibition, or other form of distribution. This course builds on skills learned during the Game Engine Camp and requires an understanding of Unity, Unreal Engine, 3D modeling, and animation. The course is organized in three sections: concept development, building & iteration, and optimization & testing.

This course provides students with the opportunity to learn how to create prototypes and to explore immersive storytelling using artificial intelligence, machine learning and data journalism. Students get hands-on experience using open source AI tools including Google Cloud, Microsoft Cognitive Services, and IBM Watson. In addition, to technical skills, students will learn key considerations related to ethics and standards of deploying artificial intelligence.

Voice commands, conversational interfaces, and chatbots are redefining how individuals engage with the world around them. These platforms carry new opportunities for storytelling, art, and media display. Students will learn the design principles of conversational interfaces and how to adapt messages and stories to each medium. Furthermore, they will be taught to build experiences for voice devices such as Amazon Alexa as well as produce media for messaging apps.

The internet of things provides storytellers an opportunity to rethink the traditional approach of media creation. Students will learn how to combine software and hardware to develop new forms of content. In this course, they will develop knowledge in JavaScript and Python which allows them to program microcomputers such as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. In addition to programming, students will also use modeling skills learned in the game engine camp to produce 3D printed installations which are connected to the internet.


Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.

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