The Microsoft MVP Award Program recently launched three new Award Categories at the end of July 2022 for the first time since AI was added in 2017. Mixed Reality is one of the new categories.
In this article, we explore how a Japanese Mixed Reality MVP, Kenta Iwasaki (as known as Iwaken), is empowering student developers through his community Iwaken Lab., to support students who love innovation and enable them to create social impact using their favorite technology.
Kenta organizes weekly meetings with student community members and professional mentors to enable more than 60 unique attendees to interact with other members through technical discussions. In addition, he runs a private Discord channel where he gives feedback on members’ activities, shares technical updates, and collaborates with members on joint projects. With the support of five mentors who are passionate about helping students, Kenta’s community members achieved their personal social impact goals. These include accepting an intern position at XR company, becoming a lightning talk speaker at technical community event, sharing open-source project, writing technical content and book, starting their own business, and releasing iOS/Android Applications.
“Everything began from helping the student in my university who loves AR. After that, I have realized there are many potential students who struggled in selecting better environment to use their talents. Under the pandemic, expanding new connections was not easy for the students who love the latest technology like XR,” Kenta explains the reason why he started student empowerment activity. “Technical community helped me learn about Unity and HoloLens when I was a student. It’s my turn to help students,” he adds.
Kenta’s community has 28 student members as of the end of August 2022. Their common expertise is 3D, and each member has various relevant technical interests from Unity, Unreal Engine, XR (VR, AR, and MR), to Metaverse, Digital Twins, Photogrammetry, and robot. In terms of promoting his community to invite new students, he says the most important thing is not the number of community members. “We share our vision on the community website, post Twitter about our activities, and express the values of our community events clearly. We expect new members to sympathize with our vision and values.”
Community is not the place for one-way communication. Kenta provides his technical knowledge and learns many things from student members, “Our community members actively share what they learn and find, such as implementation of NeRF, VRSNS service development, and Babylon.js-based WebAR development. Thanks to them, I can catch up with the latest hot topics.”
Kenta shares three principles to open the way to the future with favorite technology:
- Verbalize and show your vision
- Maintain your curiosity and develop your strength
- Select the best environment that meets your strength
“My community Iwaken Lab. will prepare an environment which provides students a lot of opportunities to find new things based on these principles. I dream that the students in this community will keep collaborating with us to make a better society with new technologies even after they graduate from school. Let’s continue to grow together and become a key person to lead Japan and the world three years later from now,” says Kenta.