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Zoom Innovation Lab utilizes student partnership to enhance virtual communication

A new plug-in, known as Zoom 2.5D, integrates Zoom's existing 2D interface with a 3D virtual reality universe


"Perhaps the biggest project realized from the partnership so far is a 3D plug-in created for the Zoom software."

In October 2022, ASU and Zoom announced a five-year strategic partnership and inaugurated the Zoom Innovation Lab at the Creativity Commons on ASU's Tempe campus. Conceived and built within a six-month period from March to October, The Zoom Creative Studio is one of many projects launched through Zoom’s partnership with ASU. 

Zoom's present commercially-deliverable version operates on a 2D interface, with real-time video superimposed onto screens in a gallery wall-like structure. ASU student workers at Learning Futures Collaboratory were integral to inventing the code behind the new plug-in. 

Currently called Zoom 2.5D, the plug-in's function is to integrate Zoom's 2D interface with 3D virtual reality and simulated universes like the metaverse. 

"Perhaps the biggest project realized from the partnership so far is a 3D plug-in created for the Zoom software," said Dan Munnerley, executive director for Learning Futures at ASU.

Using Zoom 2.5D, an individual in the real world could connect to a virtual reality avatar, and can travel through space together in the alternate universe through a Zoom call. The plug-in was created out of what Munnerley said is a "pair-programming project," where a student works together with an engineer or programmer from Zoom.

Zoom 2.5D was first demonstrated at the inauguration of the Zoom Innovation Lab in October, and is expected to be commercially deliverable to the extent of use in universities across the nation by the end of the year. 

The partnership was born out of the pandemic when ASU was forced to operate virtually due to the lockdown in early 2020. The University soon became one of the largest users of the Zoom software Munnerley said.

The University decided to strengthen its ties with the corporation. Munnerley calls it a "reciprocal agreement."

The key foundation of this initial contract was to leverage the maximum benefit from Zoom’s Intellectual Property for ASU's student population. 

In return, as part of the reciprocal agreement, student workers at ASU's Learning Futures Collaboratory, an initiative under ASU Enterprise Technology that fosters creativity and collaboration, would partner with Zoom to develop new projects and technology.

"(ASU Enterprise Technology) is centralized," Munnerley said, meaning that its programs often incorporate students across a diverse range of schools. At Learning Futures, student workers range from studio art majors at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to nursing and health science majors at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Annie Davis, director of communications at Enterprise Technology, said the Zoom Innovation Lab is "cross-institutional, often supplying technology and IP to other corporate innovation labs."

This cross-institutional approach has enabled diversity in projects currently being developed under this partnership. In collaboration with The Luminosity Lab at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, one major project is on track, using technology enabled by the Zoom Innovation Lab — a telehealth application that uses Zoom's video interface to enable remote and immediate consultation. 

At the Herberger Institute, an astrobiological science course offered together with the School of Earth and Space Exploration uses virtual and 3D simulation technology from the Zoom Creative Studio to explore an arts-based examination of extra-terrestrial models of life. 

Joshua Thompson, a technology studio manager at ASU's Learning Experience said this is just one of several programs and courses using this technology.

"Our goal is to leverage technological innovation through the Zoom Creative Studio to enhance the learning experience," Thompson said.

Open to all ASU students from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, students can coordinate visits, personal consultations or even run experiments using the Zoom Innovation Lab's technological property. 

Edited by Annie Graziano, Jasmine Kabiri, Anusha Natarajan and Luke Chatham.

Reach the reporter at and follow @shriiiitt on Twitter. 

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