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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 


Emilee Meng
Co-President, XR Events Lead

Emilee is a senior 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. 


Christabella Palumbi
Co-PresidentLogistics Lead

Christabella Palumbi is a junior studying computer science in the College of Engineering. She has been interested in XR since middle school, and the drive to develop her own VR games is what encouraged her to first try out the Unity game engine. The applications of XR that most intrigue Christabella are multiplayer games (including asynchronous multiplayer) and experiences that utilize 3D space to introduce elements that would not be possible on a traditional 2D screen.


Nicole Choi
Co-PresidentArt Lead

Nicole is a junior pursuing a dual degree in computer science in the College of Engineering and art & design at the Stamps School of Art and Design. Her first VR rollercoaster experience in 2015 and her love for programming, animation, and games led to her fascination with XR, where she is interested in creating immersive virtual experiences. With her interests in XR and artificial intelligence, she hopes to build immersive XR experiences with AI to create pleasurable experiences for the user and promote a society of care and empathy.


Kriti Gupta
Project Lead

Kriti is a junior pursuing a major in Computer Science. She joined ARI after her first game jam, which was also her introduction to Unity and game development. She loves that XR development involves a lot of creativity and likes to explore how XR can be incorporated into everyday life.


Sonia Lin
Finance Lead

Sonia is a junior studying computer science in the College of Engineering. Her passion lies in exploring the intersection between art and technology in XR. She envisions using XR to craft entertaining and immersive experiences. In her free time, she enjoys learning about 3D modeling and computer graphics.


Ashley Phillip
Marketing Lead

Ashley is a junior studying Computer Science in the College of Engineering and minoring in Art & Design at Stamps. Her first real experience with XR was when she joined ARI, but she has always been interested in the unique worlds and interactions that can be made in a virtual space! She loves the creativity that is inherent in any kind of XR experience and hopes to use XR to create enjoyable spaces for people and help improve people’s lives!

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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.

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