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C Spire Tech Experience (CTX) technology event at Ole Miss’ Pavilion featuring Randi Zuckerberg

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

A major technology event featuring nationally acclaimed speakers and cutting-edge demonstrations is scheduled for Thursday at the University of Mississippi.

CTX — the C Spire Tech Experience — begins at 2 p.m. in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. The mini-SXSW expo features Brian Uzzi, a Northwestern University professor and artificial intelligence expert; Michelle McKenna-Doyle, chief information officer for the National Football League; and Randi Zuckerberg, founder of Zuckerberg Media and former chief marketing officer of Facebook.

Demonstrations for some of the leading technology innovations in the U.S., including virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and a “sneak peek” of C Spire’s forthcoming streaming digital television product are also planned. The VR demonstrations will feature advanced work by faculty and students in the UM School of Engineering and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

Partners for the event include the UM schools of Business Administration and Engineering, Associated Student Body, the CME and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“We’re excited to partner with an industry leader in hosting a major high-tech event on campus,” Chancellor Jeffery Vitter said. “It will help spur ideas and innovation that will enable our students and faculty to more fully participate in the new digital economy.”

Vendors and demos

C Spire CEO Hu Meena said the Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology services company is likewise pleased to be coming to the university.

“As the region’s technology leader, we’re uniquely positioned to bring to life an event at the intersection of music and technology,” Meena said. “In the new digital economy, these are some of the leading innovations that hold promise for greatly improving the quality of our lives.”

Besides providing the venue and additional support for CTX, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will have two demonstrations set up in the vendor area.

“One is our virtual reality kiosk, which allows viewers to put on a headset and go on the Walk of Champions, inside the locker room and other Rebels’ sports-related scenarios,” said Michael Thompson, senior associate athletics director of communications and marketing. “The second one is our Rebel Rewards app, which gives faithful patrons and users several discounts on Ole Miss Athletics merchandise.”

A group of nearly 40 students in UM’s virtual reality class is working on demonstrations for CTX.

“These students are from all across the state, nation and world,” said Adam Jones, assistant professor of computer and information science. “This class is the first of its kind at Ole Miss and is the only regular class in the state dedicated to developing virtual reality systems.”

Jones’ Hi5 Virtual Reality Lab students, his research group, also will show some of their projects.

“These students will be demonstrating novel mixed reality and augmented reality experiences that bring elements of the real world into VR with you,” he said.

CME students’ demos include a table that showcases the NASA Student Launch rocket project in which they participated.