Decorative image of woman wearing some kind of virtual reality glasses pointing into the distance. The image has abstract lines across it.

Annenberg Extended Reality Lab

The Annenberg Extended Reality Lab supports critical and interdisciplinary exploration and theory building around virtual, augmented, andmixed reality technologies (collectively known as extended reality or XR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Annenberg Extended Reality Lab logo

The Annenberg Extended Reality Lab has partnered with the Vitale Media Lab at Van Pelt Library and the Annenberg School for Communication Library to make a variety of equipment available to people interested in experimenting with virtual reality and immersive filmmaking. 

What the Lab Does

  • Foster critical, collaborative and interdisciplinary social sciences XR research 
  • Develop theoretical and practical knowledge underpinning the spectrum of XR work 
  • Integrate XR into the Annenberg educational experience 
  • Create a global network of engaged scholars and practitioners 
  • Disseminate public facing XR knowledge in multi-modal formats 
  • Liaise between Annenberg experts and virtual reality content creators 

Some Areas of Interest/Research

  • Virtual events  
  • Interactive/immersive storytelling 
  • Knowledge distribution and training
  • Sharing lived experiences
  • Fostering diversity and global perspectives 
  • Critical, interdisciplinary research and multi-modal scholarship

The Social Grammars of Virtuality

The Social Grammars of Virtuality is a unique digital publication that provides a high-level, critical summary of social science extended reality (XR) research. This report is intended as a resource for the global community of researchers and practitioners wishing to better understand the social fabric and communicative dynamics around XR experiences, including virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. In the first issue readers can find a systematic mapping of the intellectual, geographic, and funding sources of 1,457 XR peer-reviewed, social science articles published in 2022. The publication is available in both English and Spanish.

Past Projects

Person seated in a dark room with a VR headset on, listening to the receiver of a payphone which sits behind them

The Payphone: Portraits of Urban Resilience

An immersive experience that explores the fading, yet oddly resilient social functions of the payphone. This interactive installation integrated VR headset video with oral histories via the payphone’s handset. Project by Assoc. Professor Jessa Lingel and Kyle Cassidy of the Annenberg School and presented at the 2017 International Communications Association (ICA) conference and the 2019 Society for Social Studies of Science (4s) conference.

A person lies lifeless on the floor of a building as two people crouch over her and others look on from behind. There is a VR camera next to them.

VR Narcan

An immersive film of an opioid overdose intervention training developed by Ann Marie Hoyt-Brennan at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. The 9-minute video was proven as effective as an in-person high fidelity training in two studies.

Person in winter gear stands outdoors in an eerie-feeling landscape with rocks and plants and dramatic clouds in the sky. A VR camera on a tripod also stands in the foreground

Alchemical Infrastructures: Making Blockchain in Iceland

A multi-model examination of cryptocurrency mining in Iceland including an immersive film by Annenberg Ph.D. candidate Zane Cooper and Kyle Cassidy.

A VR camera close up with people blurred behind it


In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic doctors at NY Presbyterian looked for ways to quickly disseminate best practices in treating COVID to areas that had yet to be hit hard by the virus. In a partnership with the Annenberg School and Penn Medicine, this 360’ immersive film transports doctors to the familiar environment of an emergency room but uses overlaid text to point out the myriad of subtle things physicians need to be aware of to best care for a patient and ensure the safety of their own staff.

A camera on a tripod is in the foreground with medical people doing unspecified tasks indoors behind it

Annenberg / CHOP Innovate Education

A partnership between the Annenberg School and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to use immersive filmmaking to lower the costs of onboarding nurses and to bring training to medical workers in underserved areas. The 360 educational approach allows learners to fully experience environments that are not always accessible. Led by Kirsten Hickerson, D.N.P., R.N., C.E.N., and Kyle Cassidy.


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Katerina Girginova, Ph.D.

Katerina researches global media, virtual events, and audiences. Her work has been published in numerous journals and she has presented her work at conferences worldwide. She is the recipient of a number of awards including grants from the International Olympic Committee, the Swedish Government, The Capital Speaker’s Club of Washington D.C., and the University of Pennsylvania. Katerina holds a PhD in Communication Studies from the Annenberg School for Communication. More about Katerina.

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Kyle Cassidy

Kyle has written numerous books and articles about technology and filmmaking and was an early citizen of MicroMUSE, MIT’s Multi User Simulated Environment which, in 1992, triggered his interest in virtual spaces. In 2020 he was awarded Penn’s Model of Excellence award for his work in VR. During the pandemic he began working with doctors from Penn and around the world to find ways to use technology to help diagnose and fight COVID-19.


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Zane Griffin Talley Cooper

Annenberg School Doctoral Candidate and Sustainability Research, Intel

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Kirsten A. Hickerson, D.N.P., R.N., C.E.N.

Vice President and Associate Chief Nursing Officer at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

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Jessa Lingel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Communication, Annenberg School for Communication

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Elizabeth Sanseau, M.D.

Physician, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

smiling person lying on a stretcher inside an ambulance, with two people crouched next to her and one standing behind. All are smiling for the camera.

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