UTPB lecturer’s VR book gains new life

Although it was published in 2011, University of Texas of the Permian Basin professor Tom Hohstadt’s book “The Age of Virtual Reality” has gained momentum recently being named one of 20-plus nonfiction virtual and augmented reality books to expand your mind.

The book was ranked No. 9 out of 20 in an article on the website Haptical.

“It is gradually getting to be recognized,” he said. “People are just getting to discover it.”

Hohstadt, philharmonic orchestra director and senior lecturer in music and humanities at UTPB, doesn’t look at virtual reality from the technological point of view. He defines it as the intuitive, non-literal language of juxtaposition. Participation in this language, he said, is immersive and interactive and the result of the experience is felt meaning.

The idea for “The Age of Virtual Reality” had been brewing for many years.

A Fulbright scholar, Hohstadt has earned four advanced degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Vienna Akademie für Musik. In addition, he received the Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music and advanced study from the renowned maestro, Pierre Monteux, at the Domaine School of Conductors.

His 28-year conducting career includes positions with the Eastman School of Music, the Honolulu, Amarillo, and Midland-Odessa symphonies and guest appearances in eight nations.

Despite his rich music education and training, Hohstadt said he felt like there was something missing and his life was a quest to find what was missing.

“Throughout all my experience, I used my concerts and my experience as a conductor as a laboratory situation trying to experiment with various ideas and more and more it led me in the direction of what we call virtual reality and I discovered my definition of music is the same as virtual reality,” Hohstadt said.

He decided to write the book after Associate Professor of Music and Music Coordinator Dan Keast asked if he had an idea for an online course. Hohstadt devised a course in virtual reality and wrote the textbook, as well.

Hohstadt teaches the eight-week VR course three times a year. The most recent class had 93 students and the previous one had 104.

“Many of them think it’s the best class they’ve ever had in their college experience. More and more we’re living in a world of virtual reality, especially our young students so it’s really important to them. They really understand the significance of trying to understand that new world,” Hohstadt said.

The Film Music course is an advanced understanding of virtual reality from an artist’s point of view, Hohstadt said. It connects the role of music in movies.

“Films include all the arts. Films have poetry; they have visual art; they have movement or choreography; they have music. All the arts are involved in the films and so you have a huge combination of different art forms interacting with each other. It’s something that you cannot understand rationally, but you can understand it intuitively,” he added.

Keast said Hohstadt’s virtual reality course is the capstone for UTPB’s online humanities degree. He said it pulls together all the information learned in the various courses and takes the students on a journey of learning about how the arts are all inclusive and create a virtual or alternate reality.

Keast added that his wisdom borne of experience enables Hohstadt to immerse students in the virtual world and helps them understand how VR works and the philosophy behind it.

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