Austin Mace ’15 co-founded Subvrsive, helped Miami bring graduation to Class of 2020

By Josh Chapin, manager of editorial services

When Eric Hodgson speaks to first-year Miami University students during orientation, Austin Mace ’15 is one Miamian he always brings up.

Hodgson, the Smale Visualization Lab and Center director and an instructor in Miami’s Department of Emerging Technology in Business + Design, talks to newcomers about Mace’s many positive attributes – his motivation, innovation and vision. He details how, during Mace’s senior year, the soon-to-be interactive media studies graduate planned to do his senior thesis on 360 degree video.

There was only one problem. The technology wasn’t readily affordable, with prices soaring in the high thousands. So, Mace did the most logical thing he could think of: he built his own 360 camera.

Utilizing his handiwork, Mace created a virtual reality tour of Cincinnati for REDI Cincinnati that was exhibited during the weekend events for that year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds.

“Austin was that kind of student,” Hodgson said. “He had a ton of ambition.”

Hodgson has another example of Mace’s determination to share with new students.

“It was one of the most ambitious and gratifying projects we’ve done as a company.”

– Austin Mace ’15 on Miami University’s virtual commencement for the Class of 2020

Mace went on to co-found Subvrsive, an immersive technology company based in Austin, Texas. The Noblesville, Indiana, native and his company were called upon recently to help Miami celebrate its Class of 2020 on May 16-17 with a multi-platform virtual commencement experience.

“It was one of the most ambitious and gratifying projects we’ve done as a company,” Mace said.

With a timetable of about 3½ weeks, it was a project that appealed to Mace’s resourceful side.

The university awarded 4,356 degrees during the ceremony, which allowed users to interact by computer, mobile device or VR headset. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ’69 delivered a virtual commencement address during the event, while other notable Miami alumni gave messages of support via video.

Mace likened work on the graduation to another notable Subvrsive project, a boxing match between Peter Quillin and Daniel Jacobs for Showtime Sports. It was the first boxing bout recorded and released in its entirety on VR.

Subvrsive was nominated for a Sports Emmy for its efforts. Mace collaborated on the project with Ken Todd ’91, Showtime’s vice president for video strategy and emerging platform marketing.

“Our two most ambitious projects and milestone projects have had Miami connections,” Mace said.

“That experience was very surreal. We had been out of college for less than a year, and all of a sudden we were at the Sports Emmy Awards with a major television network, and there are athletes like Shaq in the crowd. We had to step back and take it all in.”
Hodgson wasn’t surprised Mace found success, though the level and quickness of it was a little astonishing.

“He got nominated for an Emmy six months out of college,” Hodgson said. “I didn’t see that coming.”

The most recent Miami connection brought back positive memories of Miami for Mace.

“He was one of those students who knew exactly what he wanted to do. He saw this technology coming and wanted to get into it.”

– Eric Hodgson, Miami University Smale Visualization Lab and Center Director

Subvrsive replicated some of Miami’s most iconic imagery for the virtual reality aspect of the campus, including Upham Arch, the Seal, the Beta Bell Tower and Miami’s red brick buildings.

“A moment I will never forget is during the last ceremony we had on Sunday evening, putting on my virtual reality headset, being immersed in the virtual version of Miami’s hub we created and having a conversation with the dean of the College of Creative Arts, Liz Mullenix, just talking with her and seeing her in this virtual space,” Mace said. “One of the things we talk about in our space is the feeling of presence, being completely immersed, and I would say that’s the strongest feeling of presence I’ve had in a while.”

Learning how to work in a creative box and arriving at a solution appealed to Mace. He sees opportunity in restraints, and it’s that mindset, discovered at Miami, Mace continues with his work at Subvrsive.

“He was one of those students who knew exactly what he wanted to do,” Hodgson said. “He saw this technology coming and wanted to get into it.”

As part of the College of Creative Arts Advisory Board, Mace continues to give back to his alma mater. Providing advocacy for the arts, working as career mentors for students and helping build a network of alumni are all part of the board’s mission.

“He’s a great alum,” Hodgson said, “one of the ones who really stay engaged and stay involved in the university and in the culture and who give back to the students who follow them.”

With graduations around the nation postponed or canceled because of the worldwide COVID-19 health crisis, Mace was ready and willing to lend a helping hand when his university needed him.

“I was truly honored the university turned to us to do something so ambitious to recognize the accomplishments and achievements of the Class of 2020,” Mace said. “I think it’s one of those things when there are times of hardship, sometimes some of the best creative solutions come out of those times.”

Austin Mace

Alumni Profile: Austin Mace ’15

Favorite Spot on Campus: Hiking trail system behind Marcum Center

“It’s definitely a place I would go to hike and walk and just kind of reflect on things.”

Memorable Moments: Filming concerts at Brick Street

“One of my favorite concerts we filmed at Brick Street was Chance the Rapper. It was right when he was taking off and before he was really Chance the Rapper. Just to have that eclectic and kinetic energy in a college town at a show like, it was a blast.”

Alumnus Achievement: Selected for 18 of the Last 9 cohort for 2017

“It was an amazing experience to reconnect with students and then also to be introduced to some people I was meeting for the first time. We had this shared commonality and formed some great friendships out of that.”

Bagel and Deli Pick: The Chia Bagel – veggie cream cheese, Swiss, avocado, lettuce, spinach and honey mustard on sesame.

“It is so not what I would normally go for, but now it’s become nostalgic. I always go for a Chia Bagel when I’m back.”

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