Who We Are

The Alternate Reality Initiative (ARI) is a student organization at the University of Michigan centered around virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technology. After seeing a lack of a centralized community, we created ARI to provide a hub and community for students interested in XR technology.


Through weekly meetings, ARI is fostering the next generation of XR innovators by hosting development workshops, discussing industry news, and connecting students to opportunities in the greater XR ecosystem.


Founded in January 2018, ARI has received recognition and generous support from other University of Michigan organizations. In April 2018, ARI received a $5,000 optiMize project grant and was accepted into the competitive Barger Leadership Institute Capstone program. In April 2019, ARI hosted the first ever XR Midwest Conference.


Grassroots Student Initiative Brings XR to The Midwest: "The future of XR technology is now in the hands of the young and ambitious."

-Gabriel Moss April 23, 2019

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Capstone 2018 - Student Voices: Alternate Reality Initiative (ARI)
-Barger Leadership Institute February 4th, 2019

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Introducing our Sixth Fellows Cohort! "A student organization exploring the advancing fields of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality."
-Optimize March 6th, 2018

Our Team 

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Joe Macek
Co-President and Director of XR Project Teams

Joe is a junior studying Computer Science in the College of Engineering, and he helped launch the XR project teams program at ARI. Joe has also helped develop VR intro workshop content to help ARI members learn how to create VR experiences. Having previously interned at PIXO VR, Joe is interested in the development of XR software, especially the use of VR technology for enterprise training and entertainment applications. In his spare time, Joe enjoys learning about video game development. 


Mitchell Kuppersmith
Co-President and Director of External Relations

Mitchell is a sophmore studying Computer Science with an interest in Computer Graphics and Human-Computer Interaction. Coming from a game design background, he is incredibly excited to work on software design for XR and explore the application of XR for use in entertainment and education.

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Kaavya Ramachandhran

Director of XR Marketing

Kaavya Ramachandhran is a sophmore with an alarmingly long last name. Studying in the College of Engineering, she is developing interests in robotics, digital design, mechanical/electrical engineering and computer science. She has worked with Luxottica and Various Views Research on experimental AR technology, and she has participated in a variety of XR workshops. She is most intrigued by the potential applications of AR/VR in the fields of enterprise training and art.


Liana Lau

Co-Director of XR Events

Liana is a freshman studying Business Administration and Industrial and Operations Engineering with a focus on user interaction. Having been exposed to the applications of XR in different industries ranging from automotive to medical, she is most interested in how XR technology can be used as an educational and social platform upon which to engage and inform users on a variety of topics.


Emilee Meng
Co-Director of XR Events

Emilee is a sophomore studying Computer Science and believes XR technology further blends the world and technology as one to increase interactivity, productivity, and connections between people. Initially fascinated by the Google cardboard, she has been enamored with the compelling narrative’s XR technology produces. With a focus on application design and a strong enthusiasm for XR, she hopes to use XR to improve learning and enrich people’s lives. 

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Abdullah Umar
Co-Director of Logistics

Abdullah is a sophomore studying Business Administration and Computer Science, with leaning interests towards healthcare innovation, fintech development, and XR adoption. Intrigued by ever-emerging patterns of digitization, he believes that AR/VR will introduce a novel era of economics and social signaling. Abdullah is currently working on projects and research that explore how virtual real estate, collectibles, and avatars will exist in tandem with our physical reality. 


Martha Miracky
Co-Director of Logistics

Martha is a junior studying Computer Science in the College of Engineering with an interest in computer vision and artificial intelligence. She was first introduced to VR when she was able to try Oculus' Tuscany demo in 2014 and has remained interested in XR ever since. Her interests in XR are in computer vision applications such as gesture recognition and spatial mapping

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Michael Zhang

Student Advisor

Michael is a senior studying Business Administration and is an ARI co-founder. Since developing a VR foreign language app in high school, Michael has been involved in XR technology for three years. He is currently exploring the potential of social VR for communication, and he has hosted over 30+ social VR events in AltspaceVR. He also serves as President of the inter-collegiate ICXR community. Michael previously worked as a VR Product Management intern in China and an Oculus VR Brand Ambassador, and he loves discussing XR technology with others.

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Michael Nebeling

Faculty Advisor

Michael Nebeling is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information where he leads the Information Interaction Lab. His lab works in the area of human-computer interaction, investigating new techniques, tools, and technologies that enable users to interact with information in more natural and powerful ways, and also make it easier for designers to create more usable and effective interfaces. His current research focuses on empowering non-technical designers to create AR/VR experiences with little to no background in 3D animation, modeling, and programming.