FIU partners with iSTAR Enterprises to form altered reality studio

School plans to propel students into the future of media and emerging technology

MIAMI – As technology has evolved, so has our understanding of how to use it.

Most of the time, we’ve had to learn as we go.

Now, one university wants to change how we’re taught about tech.

In Local 10 News’ latest “Technically Speaking” report, anchor Gio Insignares takes us to Florida International University, where a new name and a promised “refocus” for one school plans to take future students into a great, big, beautiful tomorrow.

On the Biscayne Bay campus of FIU sits what was once the “School of Communication and Journalism.”

Now, separated into the “Lee Caplin School of Journalism and Media” and the “School of Communication,” this is part of an effort – supported by a $10 million naming gift to the university by Caplin and his wife – to propel FIU students into the future of media and emerging technology.

“The mission of the school is one where we would like to shape the future of journalism, and the way we believe you do that is through journalism education,” said Brian Schriner, Dean of the FIU College of Communication, Architecture and the Arts.

One of the central tools used to achieve that goal is the immersive studio for altered reality also known as “iSTAR.”

ISTAR is a training and teaching ground focused on extended reality – the types of things we’ve been seeing and perhaps using in everyday life such as mixed reality, augmented reality and virtual reality.

Helping lead that educational charge is Carlos Fueyo, an FIU graduate and creative director with years of experience in virtual production and technology.

“In a way, my role here is to demystify what these technologies are and make them accessible to people -- not just that they can use them, but that they feel comfortable using them,” said Fueyo, Knight Innovator in Residence, iSTAR.

Fueyo hopes that others are comfortable and confident that the tools are there to help in whatever multimedia endeavor anyone wants to take on.

Some examples include a metaverse reading of Edgar Allen Poe or a piece about the awakening of a digital human, all of it captured using readily available technology.

“When you have a university that takes that responsibility of teaching, they’re not only teaching those new technologies, but they’re teaching all the other core bases -- like art, art history, civics, journalism,” said Fueyo. “There is a foundation that I think has been missing for a long time from all these tech schools.”

Another feature of the studio is its volumetric capture.

The volumetric capture’s small green-screen room gives users the ability to create a 3-D rendering of anyone through high-depth laser cameras and motion sensors that surround the person standing in the center.

From there, those images can be placed in just about any virtual landscape.

It’s an exclamation point on what leaders here expect to be the future of media and storytelling – ready to be taught to, then molded by future generations.

“They’re enjoying it (and) they’re part of it -- they’re living it, and I think the metaverse -- we don’t understand it because I don’t think we’re supposed to understand it,” said Fueyo. “I think we’re just supposed to lead the way for the next generation who already knows it.”

The plan moving forward includes bringing in additional faculty to the program and expanding enrollment.

Formal announcements by the school are expected this spring.

About the Author:

Gio Insignares joined the Local 10 News team in May 2021 as an anchor and reporter. He’ll be co-anchoring the new WSFL Morning Newscast, Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m., and also contribute to other WPLG newscasts.