This fall semester, virtual and augmented reality is sweeping across the Colorado State University campus with a new initiative by the Office of the Vice President for Research.
The initiative is the beginning of the Office’s efforts to implement virtual and augmented reality into the educational curriculum said Kaden Strand, assistant for the Office of the Vice President for Research.
During the first weeks of classes, the Office of the Vice President for Research presented their virtual and augmented initiative to demonstrate that they are not exclusive to gaming purposes.
Strand demonstrated the concept of virtual reality being used for educational purposes with the HTC VIVE that allowed the user to walk freely and interact with objects within the virtual reality world.
By allowing more hands-on and immersive experience with 3D objects, the virtual reality initiative hopes to implement this concept into the education curriculum.
Strand said that virtual reality gives the user the sensation that they are actually in the virtual space. The user knows nothing is physical but the brain still stimulates responses as if the virtual reality was real.
“You feel like you’re right there experiencing things and this initiative provides a hand on experience,” Strand said.
Strand said the initiative will not completely change the education curriculum, but rather revolutionize it by expanding educational possibilities. One example of the potential uses would be for architecture or engineering majors, where they can create a blueprint or model and be able to walk through the structure or visually see if their model is successful.
“When you can reach out to things, you become more engaged and it increases cognition in the brain,” Strand said.
While a VR headset can make the user appear as if they are at an archaeological dig site, augmented reality adds virtual qualities to the real world. A prime example of AR would be the mobile game, Pokemon GO.
Strand said the technology will be open to all areas of study. For example, the VR and AR headsets would allow for the ability to experience music and speaking events. Students in the College of Liberal Arts could give a speech to a massive audience through the headset and gain the experience to be confident to give speeches to a real world audience.
Strand believes in making the technology accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. Upon implementing the technology into the educational curriculum, Strand hopes to establish what he calls “portals” that serve as stations were the technology would be usable.
While thoroughly passionate about the initiative, Strand said that it would not have been possible without Dr. Alan Rudolph. During the 2015 World Cup in Brazil, Rudolph showcased the “Walk Again” project that allowed for a paraplegic man to give the honorary kick due with the use of an exoskeleton created by Rudolph.
The exoskeleton was controlled by a Virtual Reality Headset. The VR headset was controlled by the brain that relayed haptic feedback with pressure that would sense every time the man moved. Without Virtual Reality being known for therapeutic uses, Strand believes that the educational initiative would not have been possible.
CSU will hold a virtual reality week October 22-23. The week will feature lectures, demonstrations and a Hackathon, where students will be challenged to make a virtual experience in 48 hours. The event is open to the public, and students of any major can sign up. The Hackathon seeks students from a diversity of backgrounds to participate. The sign up for the Hackathon can be found on the Office of Vice President of Research’s website. The Hackathon will be held at Aylesworth D Lab and all applicants must be submitted by October 7. The winning team will be applicable to prizes and community showcasing.
The Office of Vice President for Research can be reached on their Twitter @CSU_VR for any general questions relating to the Hackathon.
Collegian reporter Connor Deblieck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CDeBlieck1995.