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Virtual Reality Programming is Putting Down Roots in Bluff Country, Minnesota

Fillmore County has been put up on the world map with the novel Virtual Reality works of Vaughn Schmidt. A Preston resident, Schmidt has served as the lead programmer/consultant on the “live interactive virtual reality (VR) theatre performance” of Finding Pandora X. The performance was awarded the “Best VR Immersive User Experience” at the Venice Film Festival.

Schmidt graduated from Luther College in 2020 with a major in art and a minor in visual communication. He became interested in VR development around 2018 and subsequently, developed several programming tutorials for the VRChat platform. This platform allows developers to upload characters and environments. As Schmidt used to upload up to two videos on YouTube per month, he was discovered by Double Eye Studios, through these videos.

Possibilities of the field

In an interview with Fillmore County Journal, Schmidt explained VR programming using layperson terms as a cross between video games and generic programming. He stated that as a high school student, he loved video games and liked programming. He was never involved in theatre in school, although he played in the school pit band. Yet, he ended up being a VR programmer for an award-winning theatre performance. However, as a computer programing major, it was not until his supervisor at Luther College recommended studying visual communication that he realized the possibilities of the field.

Fillmore County resident, 2020 Luther College graduate, and virtual reality programmer and environment designer Vaughan Schmidt.

As an avid programmer, Schmidt was always fascinated by computers. He told that during his school days, his alma mater Fillmore Central High School donated their old computers as they shifted to Mac computers. He immediately collected 10 old computers, revamped them, and gave the devices to his family members. He hails from a simple family. His parents, Paul and Karen Schmidt are farmers based outside of Preston. They own a farm where they grow corn, asparagus, garlic, and raises hogs. They also host visitors at their farm where the guests can spend a period of three to seven days experiencing an interactive, immersive farm experience. Vaughn also has a younger brother who works as a manager at O’Reilly Auto Parts near Des Moines. He stated that although the two of them are very different, they approach their respective careers in a similar way. His advice to present high school students interested in VR and theatre is that they should find a product or platform that they like and carve a path out by focusing on it.

Exciting things

The future seems to hold exciting things for Schmidt. He recently got a job interview with a Japanese company named HIKKY for the position of a junior programmer. Meanwhile, he continues to work with Double Eye Studios as they announce the North American premiere of Finding Pandora X at the annual film and music festival, South by Southwest, in Houston. Schmidt says winning the award at the Venice Film Festival was a phenomenal experience for him.


Schmidt stated that in the next five years, VR technology will be revolutionized. Headsets have already become practically unusable. In the next couple of years, headsets will become smaller and accessories will no longer be tethered. Handheld remotes, cameras attached to headsets will likely become popular. He also said that Gabe Newell, Valve’s CEO, has made VR more exciting than sci-fi.

As you probably rush to buy your VR headset after reading this, here is a tip for you. The Index headset that costs just $1,000 is currently top of the line.



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