Perception might be 99 percent of reality and in the case of the Clarksdale Virtual Reality Academy, a high-tech, cutting-edge training facility, a father-son team from Colorado is changing the reality of many Delta teens and changing lives in the process.
Vince Jordan and his son Josiah Jordan set up shop in the Delta town of Clarksdale and have created a revolution of sorts within the virtual reality industry that is having ramifications across the globe.
From surgeons seeking to perfect life-saving procedures, to training FedEx employees and Fortune 500 companies like Volkswagen and Walmart, high-definition virtual reality is often the best teacher.
Vince Jordan and son Josiah created Lobaki, Inc. which gets its name from a Tibetan spirit guide, due to the fact that its virtual reality apparatus can create an "otherworldly experience."
Then there is the entertainment aspect of virtual reality that has swept the nation and world.
From the virtual reality lab the duo created in Clarksdale, participants can experience stepping across a treacherous, eight-thousand-foot crevasse or scaling Mt. Everest.
From Clarksdale to Mississippi's capital city, the Jordans have created the world's largest Xtended Reality Lab on the campus of Jackson Preparatory School in Jackson.
"Last year, I went to Jupiter, Mars and the moon with this thing on my head," Jordan said. "This is amazing. This is a game changer."
It's a game changer for Delta teens and others that Jordan is apprenticing.
Jordan said, for instance, "Hollywood riggers" which employ virtual reality to create special effects in multimillion-dollar films can earn a salary of $165,000 a year.
Jordan is training such virtual reality experts in Clarksdale.
"A kid fresh out of high school can walk into that job," Jordan said. "There is a window of opportunity for this state. Teachers are using it in the classroom. Art teachers are using it. A calculus professor at Ole Miss is using multi-dimensional calculus examples using virtual reality technology."
"We're now putting virtual reality labs around Mississippi," Jordan said. "This kind of thing is not happening anywhere else in the country."
The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi provided two grants to help jumpstart the virtual reality effort in the Mississippi Delta, amounting to more than $6,000, or $3,000 each.
Tom Pittman, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, said the two grants, the Placed-Based Learning and Civic Entrepreneurship Endowment grant and Technology and Education Endowment grant were instrumental in assisting the Clarksdale Virtual Reality Academy's outreach training and apprenticeship program.
"We were really turned on to this by the City of Clarksdale," Pittman said. "They had seen it firsthand," said Pittman, adding the virtual reality technology was developed under the Bill Luckett administration. "They saw what was happening with the kids who became involved with this program and advocated for them. The City of Clarksdale invested some money and encouraged us to do so and we did."
"We think this grant will pay some dividends to the community and to the region," Pittman said.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.