Virtual reality headsets have long been associated with sci-fi movies and niche tech experiments.
But in the late 2010s, virtual reality materialized into the mainstream at lightning speed and became a popular medium for gaming. Now, the Oculus Quest is a household name topping Christmas lists and is available at GameStop stores nationwide.
Brenna Faber, a junior at LAS, is one of many Oculus Quest users who enjoys various games on the platform such as “Beat Saber”, “Job Simulator” and “VR Chat”.
“I find VR fun,” Faber said. “Although the current situation is a bit more novel than practical. I really loved games like “Beat Saber” and “SUPERHOT” which are polished and follow your real body movements to play. »
However, Faber thinks VR is just for entertainment and not meant for more.
“At the moment it’s not accessible to so many people, difficult to use for people without technology experience, and impractical to use for long periods of time at a time,” Faber said. “I think the idea of a societal shift towards virtual reality is more science fiction than a practical future.”
However, various professors and faculty members of technology initiatives on campus believe that virtual reality is capable of much more than just games. The University has made strides in integrating and innovating VR technology on campus.
[email protected] is a focal point for technology integration on campus. The collaborative initiative is a support management system for VR technology at the University which is used for teaching, research and exploration purposes.
Supported by the University’s Technology Services Department, [email protected] coordinates with members of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, the IDEA Lab at the University Library, and Media Commons.
Eric Kurt, coordinator of Media Commons and one of the founders of [email protected]described his optimism about the use of virtual reality in other activities than games.
“VR is absolutely capable of more than just playing,” Kurt said. “Practical applications, especially in relation to education, are one of the guidelines of [email protected] and we found a lot of good ideas. I think the metaverse is a very viable idea, especially as virtual reality evolves into augmented reality. »
Elisandro Cabada, director of the Grainger Engineering Library IDEA Lab, explained how in-game virtual reality efforts have laid the groundwork for more educational pathways the University is exploring.
“While the gaming industry is what has helped make virtual reality a viable commercial technology, we are seeing more and more interest in using the technology in research and course content,” Cabana said.
IDEA Lab has developed a virtual classroom platform, Project Komodo, to facilitate versatile and customizable virtual reality educational experiences. The platform is used in a materials science and engineering course and a fashion design course.
“VR lets you go beyond the classroom experience by allowing you to create discipline-specific simulations with nearly endless possibilities,” Cabana said.
Healthcare fields at the University have also started experimenting with virtual reality.
Harris Junaid Nisar, a simulation engineer at the Healthcare Engineering Systems Center, worked with a team of specialists to develop simulations to train healthcare professionals and patients using virtual reality.
“I use VR technology to recreate scenarios and interactions and guide the learner through them,” Nisar said. “I can provide more project details, screenshots or videos if needed.”
While Nisar said VR is more than gaming, he was quick to point out how using technology for gaming isn’t completely worthless.
“Gamifying these complex scenarios can lead to more engaging training modules that don’t feel like you’re training at all,” Nisar said. “Additionally, due to the immersive nature of VR, the learner needs to be focused because there are no distractions when the headset turns on and people can browse more content in less time.”
Sarita Vikram Adve, Professor of Computer Science, explained how the University is now leaning into extended reality initiatives. Adve is also involved with the Illinois eXtended Reality Testbed Consortium. The ILLIXR aims to understand and apply extended reality technology.
“We should consider the full set of associated immersive technologies when asking this question,” Adve said. “Not just virtual reality, but also augmented reality and mixed reality, all collectively referred to as extended reality. XR promises to be the next computing interface and has the potential to transform virtually every aspect of our lives.
Adve, while being cautious about privacy issues as VR technology expands, also wants the technology to be accessible.
“An important concern is security and privacy,” Adve said. “It also forces us, as a society, to tackle appropriate behavior in the virtual world and the protection of our privacy, given that we will be wearing glasses with cameras potentially always on in our homes and everywhere we go. going and in constant contact with the cloud.
“We also want to make sure the technology is freely available and doesn’t become the property of a handful of companies.”