Tanner Upthegrove, media engineer for Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, has been named one of the nation’s top young innovators in the audiovisual field by Systems Contractor News, one of the leading publications in the systems integration industry.

Upthegrove joins eight other audiovisual professionals to make up “The Nine: The Next Class of AV Innovators.” Staff members of Systems Contractor News consulted top audiovisual professionals and firms to create a list of future leaders needed to move the industry forward through the use of new technologies, ideas, and perspectives.

Upthegrove oversees six multimedia labs for the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology in the Moss Arts Center, including the research capabilities of the Cube, a $15 million, four-story experimental space and data exploration facility shared by the institute and the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. In addition to serving as a performance space, the Cube is a high-tech laboratory where researchers can explore and interact with literally anything in the world in real-time—from the smallest molecule to the largest building—in full-scale virtual environments.

Students, faculty, and national and international guest artists and researchers come from a variety of disciplines, representing the areas of science, engineering, arts, and design, to collaborate on research and experimentation activities in big data exploration, immersive environments, intimate performances, audio and visual installations, and experiential investigations of all types.

Upthegrove makes all of those things happen.

“Tanner really is the wizard behind the curtain at ICAT,” said Ben Knapp, director of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. “He brings vast technical knowledge and a collaborative spirit to the work we do. Researchers trust Tanner and feel confident working with him on their projects.”  

Upthegrove worked closely with the technical designers of the facility to ensure the vision for the Cube—to provide a flexible space of limitless research potential for spatial audio and immersive environment projects — became a reality. Now, he manages the research activities of the Cube and all of the institute’s equipment, facilitating the technological needs of researchers and guests.

With motion capture cameras throughout, the Cube tracks people as they move through the space. Armed with head-mounted displays or tablets, users interact with virtual environments in real-time. With one of the most advanced sound systems in the world, the Cube features 148 speakers and five subwoofers suspended from all four levels, including several floor-standing speakers, offering 360-degree audio capabilities to deliver a complete immersive experience.

Prior to joining the institute, Upthegrove taught audio electronics at Full Sail University, served as assistant engineer to Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Bob Katz, and worked with Virginia Tech’s Classroom Audiovisual Services. He is a graduate student in the School of Performing Arts’ Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts program.