William Peace graduate makes virtual dreams a reality :: WRAL.com

By Abbey Slattery, WRAL Digital Solutions

This article was written for our sponsor, William Peace University.

Jonas Monanteras graduated from Raleigh’s William Peace University with a degree in simulation and game design.

Now, he’s working on art galleries and diving around coral reefs — or, at least, bringing those experiences to people virtually. Monanteras works for Durham-based Horizon Productions, a creative service agency that provides video production, animation/motion graphic development, audio production and more.

“During my last semester of college, I interned with Horizon — they had come and talked to students at William Peace, and I was like, ‘This is everything I wanted,'” said Monanteras. “The whole process was fantastic and having the real-world experience is key, you can’t really beat that. In my case, it happened to turn into a full-time position, but even if it hadn’t, it would have been enough for me to be confident about going out and getting a job somewhere else.”

While Monanteras loved video games, he didn’t necessarily want to work in the video game industry — he even came to the school intended to get a degree in accounting. But talking with WPU professor and simulation and game design department head Roger Christman swayed his decision.

WPU’s simulation and game design program focuses on building skills like programming, technical arts, 3D modeling and more. The program is specifically intended to help students master the skills needed for not only game design, but also for creating simulation training in military, healthcare, academic and industrial applications.

For his final project, Monanteras worked on a group project to build a full experience within the Unreal Engine, a game engine developed by Epic Games.

Now, he’s putting his skills to use in creating fully virtual, immersive environments — including a virtual exhibit for the Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn Golden Ticket Virtual Art Gallery.

“We built out the art gallery. They had this competition with over a hundred different digital paintings that people submitted. In the VR experience, we have all the paintings and then we allow the players to vote on their favorite painting and that decided a People’s Choice Award for the events,” said Monanteras. “It was a huge project, and it was exciting to be able to work on so many different elements. Being able to see the reactions from people going into these experiences is one of my favorite parts of the job.”

The art gallery also had a multiplayer game element, where participants would find hidden treasure, make friends with dragons and use tools to interact with their environment. With access to some of the latest technology in VR and game design, Monanteras and his co-workers are able to expand the potential of their simulations.

Some of Horizon Productions’ other projects include the Hydrous VR Experience, which uses 3D models of coral reefs to promote conservation education; the MX3D VR Experience, which allows users to 3D print a metal bridge in Amsterdam; and the Data Center VR in partnership with Lenovo, which lets users explore everything from a flight turbulence simulator to launching drones.

For Monanteras, the projects he works on are just further proof of how far VR has come — and where it might end up going from here.

“In the early days, a lot of VR experiences were just hooking up your phone, plugging it into a headset and watching YouTube or something. That’s not really VR we build. It’s fully immersive, you have both of your hands, you can walk around, all of that,” said Monanteras. “We frequently get access to technology before other people. If I could go back to being my 12-year-old self and know that I would get access to cool, exciting hardware and be able to build on it, I would’ve lost my mind.”

“Every six months it feels like there are more cogs in the machine, and they’re building towards something, like unbelievable complex geometry inside of a virtual world,” he continued. “We’re approaching some point at which everything’s going to come together perfectly. Everyone wants to call it the metaverse, and there are a million different definitions of what it’ll look like, but we’re seeing all of these things come together, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

This article was written for our sponsor, William Peace University.


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