Medical breakthroughs, employee and military training, global exploration and vivid entertainment — the uses for Virtual Reality (VR) technology and devices are growing and the university has taken notice.
Faculty members like Student Multimedia Design Center (SMDC) coordinator, Nico Carver, are helping to drive new VR initiatives on campus.
Located in the basement of the Morris Library at the SMDC, the VR Studio is a fully-built lab of sorts, equipped with a new HTC Vive VR system, a large monitoring screen and padded walls for a safe, immersive experience.
“The [Center] has always been about a space for everyone on campus,” Carver says. “So while we’re very open to working with particular departments if they want to see something on our VR system, our focus is making it available to anyone who wants to try it out.”
The VR Studio was originally built for students and faculty who want an accessible way to develop programs, games and experiences for VR, particularly on Vive’s platform.
“We had a number of students request this because they were interested in developing for VR, and had an interest in that as a potential career,” Carter says. “So I think there is already some demand.”
The VR Studio can be used by either making a reservation or by checking in at the SMDC for a walk-in appointment. The Studio already hosts a wide range of programs, such as Google Earth, a 3D painting room called Tilt Brush and VR Funhouse, a game with a series of carnival activities.
Even for casual fun, The VR Studio offers students a chance to explore and enjoy the technology.
“I was pretty skeptical of VR technologies in the past, but since trying the games on them, seeing how fun they are, my perception of them has completely changed,” senior and long-time tech enthusiast, Matthew Saggese, says. “I even have my own Oculus Rift gear at home, but I would definitely check-out the VR Studio to explore some new programs.”
Elsewhere at the university, STAR Campus has taken their own, more research-based approach to VR.
With the new Virtual Reality and Orthotics Gait lab, STAR Campus faculty and researchers aim to conduct critical biomedical research with the technology. Students and faculty have the opportunity to use the technology for academic, professional and recreational purposes. Interest in the technology stands to grow as a result.
“I think it could work, having it here now. People can try it out and see the potential, then maybe get excited about it,” Carver says. “I was skeptical at first until I tried it, and I was like, ‘I can actually see a lot of potential here, and I can see, once the headsets become more comfortable, people spending a lot of time in VR’.”