Tag Archives: Virtual Reality

Avatars in a virtual meeting space sit on benches in front of a presentation screen showing survey results on skills gaps and continued learning related to data analysis and data science

ITKAN in the Metaverse!

We launched ITKAN, Information Technology Knowledge and Abilities Network, in early 2008 with the tagline of  “Fostering Knowledge, Network, and Opportunity”. Early members of the tech meetup that targets people with disabilities may recall our blue and white swirling, mirroring logo that reminded me of Boomerangs. Well, while we’ve updated our logo and tagline to our recognizable signature above, we’ve remained true to our mission. We continue to foster all of these while remaining on the leading or bleeding edge of tech.

Speaking of leading edge of tech, we recently debuted our first formal topic meeting in the metaverse! For the past eight months we’ve been working with a great team from Virbela, who brings people together to work, learn, meet and train in an immersive virtual world – from anywhere. Migrating to a virtual-first community negates challenges and enables growth opportunities for us. The disability community has always faced logistical and travel challenges – gone! Some members of our community also face socializing, face-to-face challenges which may be reduced in a virtual world.

The promise of the metaverse and Virbela’s Open Campus are what really excite us at ITKAN. Virbela staff and specifically Sarah Segrest, their VP of Community, is open, engaging, willing and excited to learn the challenges of disability, and most importantly very creative and forward-thinking. While they admit it’s early in creating an environment that can work for all of us, we couldn’t imagine a better partnership.

“We are so fortunate to have ITKAN as part of the Virbela Community in our open campus. Including the voices and perspectives of people and professionals with disabilities is important to us. ITKAN can help Virbela continue to broaden accessibility for all in the virtual worlds of the metaverse. We’re glad to have ITKAN as neighbors and friends in our community.” – Sarah Segrest, VP of Community for Virbela Open Campus

Virbela is poised as a global competitor in the field of Virtual Reality, and that creates opportunities for every organization in-world to become global as well. Look for our January 2023 meeting announcement and join us. While we target disability, we are an open meetup and members without disabilities are critical to our mission! In the interim learn how to register with Virbela and experience campus for yourself!

In a virtual open air auditorium, a female avatar sits on a bench talking to a male avatar nearby while a third avatar stands on a stage watching.

ITKAN’s 15th Anniversary Celebration

Join us as we celebrate 15 years of ITKAN in our new home in the metaverse! We have been engaging the Civic Tech and Disability communities since 2008! We are celebrating in the metaverse at our new virtual home community on Virbela’s Open Campus in the Speakeasy with a dance party, music, a slide show and some surprises!  

It’ll be a fun time for everyone…and simple. You can even wear your fuzzy slippers, and no one will know! 

  1. Go to https://www.virbela.com/ on your PC or Mac and click on the Get Started button 
  2. Register on Virbela (see below for helpful tips)
  3. Download the app for your device 
  4. Create your avatar  
  5. Join us in the Speakeasy on Th., October 13th from 6-7pm! 

Virbela Registration
When you register, choose ITKAN as the Organization. The Organization Size is 11-50.

Username and Avatar
Consider creating a username that is close to your real name. We will be interacting with other professionals in the environment. Have fun with your avatar, but if you veer far from a real work likeness and you use a non-recognizable username please greet people in world with your true identity.

Where is the Speakeasy?
Don’t worry. Virbela staff members are super friendly, engaging, and helpful. Once you appear in world, someone will be there to assist you. You can also join us Wednesdays from 5-5:30pm in world to get used to the controls.

Event Registration
We encourage you to also register on our Evenbrite page. Doing so will allow us to keep Virbela aware of how many people they can expect and will allow us to keep you informed.


ITKAN is proud of our history of presenting lead edge technology in a fun environment to anyone with even a kernel of passion. We’ve partnered with so many great companies and organizations over the years, including Illinois Technology Foundation, Microsoft/MTC Chicago, SPR, Abilitylinks, Yolbe, 1871, Equal Access, Computerworld, Marriott Bridges, Virbela and many more. Thanks to all of them! 

We hope to see you at our 15th Anniversary Virtual Party! 

Virbela opening screen showing their virtual campus with the sea in the background.

June 2022 Meeting – Virbela’s Open Campus

Register for the June 9 meeting.

An immersive and direct experience of how leading companies recreate corporate offices and integrate collaboration and social interaction in persistent virtual communities.

  • Visit the Open Campus of Virbela
  • Learn how leading companies create a persistent virtual community to make their culture stronger and ready for the future
  • Reflect on how you can transform the effectiveness and well-being of your team in this environment


  • Marc Daniels, Director of Enterprise Sales at Virbela
  • Campbell D’Eliscu, Manager of Business Development/Product Management at Virbela


  • Please set aside 15 minutes to install the Virbela app on your desktop, register an account, and create your avatar
  • Watch a brief video summary on how Deloitte leverages Virbela
ITKAN August 2021 Meeting | The MTC Intelligent Healthcare Workshop | Three people in scrubs wearing HoloLenses viewing a virtual CT scan of a person's head

August 2021 Meeting – Intelligent Healthcare Workshop Virtual Tour

Register for the August 12 meeting.

The Intelligent Healthcare Experience is a collection of five kiosks that comprise 70+ different demonstrations following the journeys of 10 different characters who work together to help a patient recover from a medical emergency. Microsoft expertise in the Experience showcases Virtual and Mixed Reality, AI, Machine Learning, and Big Data among others. 

Our host on our Virtual Tour will be Charles Drayton, MTC Chicago’s Chief Technical Architect and Healthcare & Life Sciences Experience Lead.  

So plan to join us for a virtual experience that promises to impress!

Thu, August 12, 2021
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM CDT


Charles Drayton is the Chief Technical Architect and Healthcare & Life Sciences Experience Lead at the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Chicago, Illinois. Charles is the creator and designer of the Intelligent Healthcare Experience, which is the largest showcase of healthcare technology anywhere at Microsoft.

April 2019 Meeting – Virtual Reality Today

Register for the April 11th meeting.

Join ITKAN on Thursday, April 11 as we continue to dive deeper into the Netflix techumentary series Liquid Science. Matthew Housholder, Chicago MTC Technical Architect, will explore the current state of technology in virtual and augmented reality! He’ll look at some of the most promising technologies including the Microsoft HoloLens and explore human challenges and industry use cases that are being addressed in partnership with these evolving technologies.

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies are improving dramatically and beginning to be applied by companies in fields like medicine, manufacturing and retail among others. And of course the consumer applications like gaming and experiential learning continue to develop and offer promise. Mark your calendar and register to join us!

Matthew Housholder is a Technical Architect at the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Chicago. He is part of a team of Microsoft Architects who help customers envision and design digital transformations for their teams, businesses and organizations.  Matthew’s areas of focus at the MTC are cloud architecture (Azure), application development, and mixed reality.

April 11, 2019

5-7:00 p.m.

Aon Tower
Microsoft Technology Center
200 E Randolph Street, 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60601

Creating New Realities for Young Adults with Disabilities

ITKAN’s Partnership with the Marriott Foundation’s Bridges From School To Work Program

Christian Sullivan wears an HTC Vive to view the virtual reality film “Walking New York” with the assistance of Microsoft CTO Paul Edlund

Christian Sullivan (left) wears an HTC Vive to view the virtual reality film “Walking New York” with the assistance of Microsoft CTO Paul Edlund (right).

When 18 year old Chicago resident Christian Sullivan arrived at the Microsoft Technology Center for ITKAN’s September meeting, he had no idea that by the end of the evening he would be walking the streets of New York City. After an interactive discussion on the technology of virtual, augmented, and mixed realities, panelist Paul Edlund of Microsoft gave audience members the chance to try out some VR devices for themselves. Christian slipped on the HTC Vive headset—a gadget that until then he had only read about online and seen in videos—and suddenly found himself on a Manhattan sidewalk alongside a group of artists and filmmakers. Christian commented that he could barely believe his good luck; he had been researching VR equipment recently but had figured that it would be long time before he’d be able get his hands on such cutting-edge devices. After one visit to ITKAN, though, Christian had tested not only the Vive but also Microsoft’s HoloLens, a pair of state-of-the-art mixed reality smartglasses. He left the meeting that night energized by the experience and more inspired than ever to pursue a career in IT. “I never thought this was where I’d be tonight,” he said as he took one last look at the screens, sensors, and “new reality” equipment positioned around the room.

Over the past year, the organizers and members of ITKAN have been welcoming young adults like Christian to their meetings and into their network through a partnership with the Marriott Foundation’s Bridges From School To Work program. The Bridges program focuses on preparing young adults with disabilities for the workforce by providing them with job-readiness training and connecting them with job opportunities with local employers. Christian, a current student at Harold Washington College, recently joined Bridges to learn the skills he needs to find his first job. Because of his enthusiasm for technology, Bridges immediately introduced him to ITKAN so that he could meet with and learn from professionals in the industry.

Less than one year ago, Orlando Herrera was in a similar position. Like Christian, Orlando had just graduated high school, wanted to study computer science, and needed help finding his first job. He joined Bridges during the early stages of the program’s partnership with ITKAN and attended the technology group’s October 2015 meeting, along with three other Bridges participants. Orlando enjoyed the experience so much that he continued to come back to ITKAN every month, meeting new people and learning new things each time. Meanwhile, Bridges helped Orlando find part-time employment as a meat clerk at Mariano’s Fresh Market, where he has worked for over nine months and has proven himself a valuable and reliable team member.

Between a busy work schedule and his classes at Daley College, Orlando always manages to carve out time for ITKAN and other tech-related opportunities—including a recent job shadow with Adam Hecktman of Microsoft Chicago. This particular day in the life of the company’s Director of Technology and Civic Innovation took Orlando from the West Loop offices of digital marketing agency Mabbly (for an interview with entrepreneur Wayne Kimmel about his new networking guide, Six Degrees of Wayne Kimmel) to the Goose Island campus of UI LABS (for a demonstration on advanced radar, drone, and anti-drone technologies as used by Israeli Special Forces). His involvement with Bridges and ITKAN made this whirlwind tour of the local tech scene a reality for Orlando, who reflected on the impact of ITKAN. He considers the organization “very important” and remarked that “technology is being advanced daily, and ITKAN helped me meet people with initiatives and ideas to help promote people with disabilities in this area.”

Orlando Herrera listens to a presentation at the Microsoft Store during a job shadow with Director of Technology and Civic Innovation Adam Hecktman.

Orlando Herrera (far right) listens to a presentation at the Microsoft Store during a job shadow with Director of Technology and Civic Innovation Adam Hecktman.

Whether it’s through a thrilling virtual reality demo or an equally immersive job shadow, ITKAN is giving the young adults of Bridges a glimpse into what is possible. As the partnership between the two organizations enters its second year, more young people like Christian and Orlando will have the opportunity to build the professional knowledge and relationships to one day become IT leaders in their own right—one meeting at a time.