Partners & Friends of The Lab


CAVRN – the Critical Augmented and Virtual Reality Research Network – is a scholarly network for academics critically studying emerging VR and AR technologies. It was established in 2022 in the context of the rapid growth of popular, media and academic interest in these technologies, in part due to the introduction of the ‘Metaverse’ into the popular lexicon. The goal of CAVRN is to connect academic researchers and promote their work at the frontiers of this emerging field of research.

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Crystal Knows

Crystal gives organizations a deeply integrated platform for scaling emotional intelligence and excellent communication skills across the entire team, from junior employees to senior-level executives. Tony, an associate professor in the Digital Media Program and director of the CougAR Lab, utilizes Crystal for researching people's profiles, collaborating with psychology and information science professors to study algorithm perception and personality concepts. He teaches AI, metadata, and social media to his students using Crystal and seeks external grants for the lab's business model.

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April 15th, 2022

As emerging technologies seem to be a new trending topic, there's a lot of miscommunication about it. We are here to answer any questions you might have about augmented and virtual realities. Join our Livestream event on April 15th, 2022 @ 5 PM for a Q&A session about augmented (AR) and virtual (VR) realities. Come ready with questions for our speaker.

Time: 5 PM | Twitch Channel (cougARlab)
Speaker: Professor Tony Liao, Ph.D
Cost: FREE

twitch channel
press release

April 8th, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: “Transcend Your Reality.”– New CougAR Lab Researching Augmented and Virtual Reality Launches at UH

Sugar Land, Texas – April 8, 2022 – The CougAR Lab is the newest academic research lab at the University of Houston - Sugarland Campus conducting ground-breaking empirical research that advances our social and societal understanding of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies.

“With some of the largest companies in the world like Apple, Microsoft, and Meta investing billions to build AR/VR devices, it is essential that we train researchers to better understand the effects of these technologies," said Dr. Tony Liao, Associate Professor at the university and founding director of the CougAR Lab.

The lab supports both research and teaching activities, with the Digital Media program offering a new course in AR/VR in Spring 2022, combining theory/research with practice/design, students learn about the latest applications and industries adopting the technologies and then are able to get hands-on experiences with the tools in the CougAR lab.

The lab launched with several research assistants already working on projects and is open to all UH undergraduate and graduate students interested in AR/VR. “There’s so much more we don’t know about AR/VR, whether it's how certain populations will react to virtual environments, how people/avatars will interact in these spaces, and how they will change our perceptions of place,” Liao said.

With over 500 majors in the Digital Media program, the new lab will help prepare students to be on the cutting edge of the field and introduce them to a technology they could implement in their future careers. In the future, perhaps more will be able to choose AR/VR as a specific career path: “I've had students whose research projects got them jobs at Meta Reality Labs. You are seeing more organizations put out positions for AR/VR content strategists, producers, and marketers, so we think there will be a lot of opportunities.”

As Sugar Land and the Greater Houston area are key technology hubs, the lab will hopefully be a site for public/private partnerships. The lab was recently spotlighted by the Fort Bend Economic and Development Council to highlight its commercial appeal. The lab is here to offer students and organizations help with any questions they might have with current or future AR/VR/XR projects.

Founded in 2022 by Dr. Tony Liao, the lab is based at the University of Houston, Sugar Land campus. The CougAR lab is unique in that it focuses on augmented reality technologies from a social science perspective, understanding how people utilize emerging technologies in everyday life, how they can affect people’s perceptions of place, and how the discussion surrounding emerging technologies shapes the development of the technology. The CougAR Lab’s mission is to conduct ground-breaking empirical research that advances our social and societal understanding of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies.

Dr. Liao’s research has been published in academic outlets such as Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, New Media & Society, Information, Communication, & Society, Social Media & Society, Science, Technology, & Human Values, Mobile Media & Communication, Information and Organization, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, Communication Studies, the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality, the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (SIGCHI), Ethics and Information Technology, Journal of Communication Pedagogy, and First Monday. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences, and the Taft Foundation at the University of Cincinnati.

Lab Manager | Roneth Vargas Figallo | 832-671-2699 |