“Everything’s NEWER in Texas”

Max Harberg
10 min readFeb 9, 2021


Imagine this: you’re a senior in high school starting to receive your college acceptance letters. You’re relieved that all of your hard work has finally started to pay off, but your left in a predicament that’s almost more stressful than filling out the apps themselves… “what college do I choose?” You begin researching new student tours and inevitably find that many of them are the same day, at the same time, in two cities on opposite coasts of the US. Additionally, your five AP exams are in two weeks, so you’re already trying to figure out the best way to organize your studying and make it to a party this weekend to celebrate the final weeks of senior year. Now potentially throw in a completely unprecedented pandemic, limiting your accessibility to even getting on a plane; not including staying in a hotel and interacting with multiple strangers… However, nothing changes the fact that by May 1st you have to make a decision that will shape the rest of your life….

Introducing: BE A LONGHORN! The ultimate AR campus tour experience allowing you to feel as though you are walking on the 40-acres without leaving your home!

Overview // Gameplay

The Texas Immersive Imagine Lab Team has been hard at work creating the future of campus tours. Through an interactive, uniquely designed map and augmented reality technology, incoming (or potentially incoming) college freshman have the ability to experience UT campus without having to make the cross-country trip. Some of the experiences, such as being placed in the middle of a UT football game, aren’t even possible in a real-life scenario. The gameplay is simple; simply scan the QR code on the bottom right corner of the map, allow the program to access your mobile device’s motion sensors, orientation, and camera (I used an iPhone, but my assumption is it’s the same for android), point the camera at the map and voilà–the experience begins! The UT Tower immediately grows out of the map, BEVO meanders his way out and begins to talk. After his introduction, users have the ability to click on the different UT attractions, while will teleport them to the spots on campus. The best part is each location was filmed during an actual day, so the experience feels as though the campus is buzzing with excitement! You also hear ambient noise such as, birds chirping, wind blowing, music playing, or fans cheering to immersive the user in the world. At the moment The Main Mall, Jester and DKR (football stadium) are the only attractions available, but that is because the experience is still in production. Once in a location, BEVO will give a brief introduction and then allow the user to look around, interact with and even take pictures of the surroundings. The 360–degree video integration is another feature that provides the user with a fully immersive feel. Additionally, using facial recognition software, individuals have the ability to take a selfie of themselves in unique “Texas memorabilia,” such as hats, face–tats and BEVO horns.


Be A Longhorn is exceedingly user-friendly. There is no download needed and a very obvious QR code at the bottom right of the map. As mentioned above, once the QR is scanned with by a user’s smart device, there is extremely minimal effort needed to get the application up and running. The user simply has to accept the ability for the program to use the orientation, motion sensor and camera and then the experience begins. BEVO is very explicit in his introductory instructions about how to interact with the user interface. Additionally, if a user moves their camera away from the map, BEVO speaks up and tells the user to point back at the map. Every button on the UI is also extremely self-explanatory, including the camera button sub-title text options. Regarding subtitles–I think I was extremely smart (I will talk more about it below) to add subtitles so a hearing-impaired user can also interact with the program.

Strengths // Weaknesses // Improvements

I’ve already touched on many strengths above, but I wanted to re-outline them down here: First, I think the seamless transitions between the QR–Scanning and program booting up, to jumping between the different locations on the map is perfect. I didn’t notice any lag-time on my end, which made it feel real. Second, the ambient noise/use of “hearing” sense allows for a truly immersive experience. Students don’t have to imagine what being on campus would be like during a normal school day (often an “elephant in the room” on normal school tours). Third, the ability to take pictures is great, as it provides students with something to post on social media (the photos also look like you’re actually there, which is super cool). Fourth, the 360–degree camera integration is another aspect that promotes a feel immersion. Fifth, re-touching on the QR–code, I really like how users don’t have to download an app. It’s always a pain to download an application and then have it sit there until you realize a year later you don’t need it anymore. Lastly, the integration of subtitles is great for allowing hearing-impaired users to also utilize the platform!

There honestly weren’t many weaknesses at all with the program! The only two I really found were the football game being a bit blurry and when I clicked on the tower, I had to refresh for the first time because the program froze.

I did think of a multitude of additions to the platform I think would be great to ad. After spending 4 years at UT for undergrad there are a few things that I think would be cool for incoming students to see:

1) I’m assuming there are multiple more attractions users will be able to click on (maybe even every location drawn on the map. However, if y’all are only going to pick and choose, here are a list of the locations I think should be added: Speedway (directly in front of Gregory Gym), PCL first floor/Community Commons (5thfloor), Student Union (First Floor Lobby), Student Activity Center (SAC), Texas Exes/Alumni Building (outside showing the bricks on the ground), Student Services Building (outside in front so users can look down Dean Keeton), BELO lobby, McCombs lobby, Music Quad, Engineering Quad, Law Quad, East and West Mall (both packed with club tables), Fountain/Six–Pack and on Guadalupe in front of CO–OP.

2) At certain locations, it would be cool to have past influential figures from UT speak as testimonials. People that come to mind include: Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Colt McCoy, Vince Young, Steve Sarkisian, Shaka Smart, Jay Hartzell, Dean Lilly, Cameron Goodman (current SGP), Matthew McConaughey, Michael Dell, etc. Even random students would be great! I guarantee that some of these individuals, especially ones that are still involved, would be more than willing to participate.

3) Although not possible 24/7, I think some form of BEVO Bot should be implemented so users have the ability to ask questions if they come up.

4) If able, maybe have some corresponding live sessions in which users can interact with the map, then, jump on a Zoom call for a panel of current students and faculty

5) Randomly throughout the experience, the Tower should turn orange and BEVO should say, “why is the Tower Orange?” and then give a fun fact like, “In 2006 TX won the football national championship at the Rose Bowl against USC!”

6) Randomly throughout the experience, the clock tour should ring the Eyes of Texas and BEVO says, “hear that, that’s our school song!” or something along those lines.

7) There should be some reference to Camp Longhorn (an additional program that compliments freshman orientation).

8) There should be a strictly PC offering of the program

Intentions: Motivations // Leveraging Engagement // Emotions // Experience

I want to look at motivations from two different perspectives: a) I want to examine the user’s initial motivations to using the program; b) I want to explore what motivations the Be A Longhorn platform itself should aim ignite in the user. In regard to the initial motivations, the user will use this program “to explore,” “to learn,” “to discover,” and “to participate/interact.” Perspective students are extremely curious about closely researching potential universities. Often, they are also looking for specific things in school (I know I was). Students will utilize this program to get to know UT’s campus, feel the atmosphere, and see if it checks all of “their boxes.” Looking at Maslow’s New Hierarchy Model, these perspective students are looking to ensure that the school will provide good common priorities (eateries, dorms, etc.), ensure they will feel safe, and ensure they feel an intimate relationship (a sense of belonging). Additionally, perspective students want to feel happiness, and maybe even a bit of surprise when interacting with the program (Ekman).

As I mentioned, I also want to explore what motivations the platform itself should aim to ignite in the User. As the user engages with the app and begins to immersive himself/herself into UT’s atmosphere, Be A Longhorn should attempt to alter the user’s motivations, to want “to represent” and “To champion” UT. The platform shouldn’t just be informative but spark the user’s desire to want “to be an advocate” for the University–championing the school before even starting first day of classes. After interacting with Be A Longhorn, not only should a student be well informed about the University but show put on a burnt orange shirt the next morning when they wake up!

When focusing on user experience, Be A Longhorn should align with Gensler’s Discovery, entertainment and aspirational modes. As mentioned above, the platform should aim to allow the user to wander through the different interactions on UT’s campus, while being entertained and feeling an ability to grow if they attend UT… Remember, “What Starts Here Changes the World!

The Four Stages of Activation

Audience: When playing with Be A Longhorn, the user will probably either be alone, with their friends, with their parents or with a college counselor. Each audience member is looking for a different need and has a different dynamic: incoming students are looking to see if they can imagine themselves at UT, parents are probably looking more at academics and college counselors are looking to be objectively educated. Dynamics will also be different depending on who is viewing the program together as users will probably get excited about games/social opportunities with their, while having to hide that when looking with their parents.

Access: Be A Longhorn can be accessed anytime and anywhere. Currently, the user must have a mobile device and have access to internet/cell service. Users also must be able to point their phone at the map so they’ll either need a second device to display it or a physical copy.

Agenda: User’s will be most inclined to use Be A Longhorn when they are exploring options for school. This stage of life can be anytime because anyone/any age can be an incoming student seeking an undergraduate, graduate or doctoral school. The program could be utilized at any time of day the user is interested in researching schools

Attractors: As mentioned, users will be attracted to the Be A Longhorn platform when they are seeking information about the University of Texas. The program needs to sell the University to the user, providing a warm and welcoming feeling. .


I decided to do a little comparative research on other University virtual offerings, and I couldn’t find anything that currently compares to this type of immersive experience. Princeton Review[1], has a current list of schools that have a type of virtual offering, but many are stale and consistent. Most include either a simple playlist of videos (Alabama[2]) or a virtual 3D, 360–degree google map style walkthrough (UM[3], USC[4]), A Hybrid Video/3D experience (Yale[5], Harvard[6]). When the University of Texas releases this platform, it will be revolutionary.


The University of Texas has a real opportunity to break the mold with the Be A Longhorn platform. Not only is the concept groundbreaking, but actual simplicity of interacting with it makes it so practical. With the simple scanning of a QR–code the user enters an immersive experience unlike anything currently provided. UT could send physical copies in acceptance packages, display it on posters at high school college fairs, blast it on their socials and integrate it into incoming student orientation; the possibilities are frankly, endless. While the program is currently great, I would love to see some of the recommendations above implemented to make the experience that much better. I would also love to be a part of the team to help brainstorm and strategize! Hook ’em horns!



Max Harberg

Promoter, Advertiser, Event Manager, Immersive Explorer, Creative and Musician. Current Graduate Advertising Student at UT Austin & Project Manager at Buzznog.