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Media expo hopes to converge tech with the arts 

Virtual and augmented reality is a much different story now than what it was back in the 1990's. Virtual reality then had made a brief buzz in the tech and gaming worlds, but was written off as nothing more than a novelty. Today, however, most smartphones come with accessories to turn your device into a VR headset, and Oculus Rift is nearly a household name — even if it isn't yet in most homes.

Virtual reality has had such an impact that local organizations and groups are beginning to explore the technological possibilities. A new expo, Light and Sound Interactive, taking place downtown Tuesday, September 12, through Thursday, September 14, will showcase innovations in light and sound-based technologies and how they impact virtual reality, augmented reality, gaming, film, audio and music, imaging, healthcare, optics, and photonics.

The expo is organized by the University of Rochester and RIT, and both will showcase a range of tech in its respective fields: UR will demonstrate its research in optics, photonics, imaging, and audio engineering; RIT will show games and programs developed by both faculty and students.

Exhibitors, including tech startups and corporations such as Vuzix, a developer of smart glass and video eyewear, and high speed camera company iX, will let attendees go hands on with its tech. There will also be an interactive digital art installation from Noirflux, where users immerse themselves and interact with digital art.

"LSI is for everybody, not just tech people and students," says David Schwartz, director of RIT's School of Interactive Games and Media. "There's incredible resources that can attract regional and international businesses to Rochester."

Along with displays and demonstrations, the expo will also feature a series of events and panels, one of which is a keynote presentation by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, who will discuss using digital technology in making his films.

LSI has an emphasis on virtual reality, and organizers hope to show that it's more than just a novelty and will remain relevant to influence not only games and film, but the business, medical, and educational worlds — not to mention the impact the industry could have on Rochester and the region.

Even with schools like UR and RIT, it's easy to overlook just how much Rochester has contributed to the tech and medical fields. Rochester is, after all, the birthplace of film, the electronic camera, and with Strong Memorial Hospital, one of the leaders in cardiac research.

Schwartz sees virtual reality going beyond games and interactive media, and making a long term impact in the medical world. VR's success is being seen mostly "in the business world. Looking at virtual systems, and surgeons," he says.

LSI takes place at the Riverside Convention Center, 123 East Main Street. Registration is $150 — free for the first 100 registrants. Students are also able to register for free. For more information, head to lightandsound.org.

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