Students, faculty and professors flew among the skyscrapers of New York City, experienced colorblindness and got a glimpse at life with dementia as a part of the Dimenna-Nyselius Library’s Virtual Reality Open House on Wednesday, April 10. The Oculus Rift headset was set up in room 302 of the library.
Students donned the headset along with two handheld controllers and sat in a chair before being transported to an alternate reality. The images on the headset were also being projected on a screen in the room, so that those waiting to use the headset could see what the person currently wearing the device was doing.
There were a wide variety of applications students could try, including exPerience: Colorblindness, which allows the player to see as a colorblind person would and engage in everyday situations, as well as Sharecare VR, which “allows anyone to freely navigate and explore an anatomically accurate 3D model of the human body, its organs, and their natural function,” according to the app’s Steam page. The event seemed to produce excitement among students about the power of the device.
“The experience was amazing,” said graduate student Ashwini Sajjan. “I used Google Earth. It was really as if I went there and I was really in the situation.”
“I actually put a reminder in my phone when I saw an add for the VR at the library,” added Alex Perugini ‘20. “I used the Dementia one because my great-grandfather had dementia. I wanted to see what it was like, if it could give me insight on that. It was really cool. It put me in a room, it was terribly photorealistic but it almost felt like I was in that room.”
The Oculus Rift can be used by professors for educational purposes as well.
“We had a professor in the arts department ask us if we had it so she could weave in into one of her assignments. That was kind of our springboard to get the equipment in here,” said Reference & Outreach Librarian Matthew Blaine. “We’re trying to find more uses for it right now.”
Blaine continued to stress the capabilities of the VR device, “It’s really flexible, there seems to be apps for everything. There’s nursing and medicine, history, there’s chemistry apps, and then there are some fun ones to just destress.”
Students are currently able to reserve time to use the VR by making a reservation for room 302 in the library. Only one student is able to use the device at a time, but students are encouraged to go in groups of up to six and, “use the space together, [as] there is a large display screen that shows what is happening in the VR world,” according to the library website.
Blaine shared that there will be more Virtual Reality Open Houses in the coming semesters, but for now students are encouraged to reserve the VR device and see where it can take them.