University announces launch of virtual reality initiative

Diego Felix

Amid Oculus Rift demonstrations and discussions of on-campus applications on Thursday, representatives from the Office of the Vice President for Research announced the upcoming fall semester launch of the Virtual Reality Initiative.

The initiative aims to supply students with equal access of VR technology to foster scholarly innovation, reflecting the OVPR’s mission to uphold Colorado State University’s land-grant heritage in the 21st century.


A student participates in a virtual reality demonstration Thursday in the Lory Student Center. (Photo credit: Neall Denman.)
A student participates in a virtual reality demonstration Thursday in the Lory Student Center. (Photo credit: Neall Denman.)

Come this fall, students will have two opportunities to take part in the initiative: the introduction of a VR design lab and a student-focused VR “Hackathon.”

“At the OVPR, we’ve taken the direction of bringing cutting edge technology to our campus,” said Nikki Martinez, lead intern of the Virtual Reality Initiative. “We’re excited to see how students can apply their major to this emerging technology.”

The proposed VR design lab would function similarly to laptop check-out stations in the Lory Student Center or Morgan Library, but instead with VR technology such as the Oculus Rift available for student checkout or curriculum application.

In addition to the lab, faculty-driven teams of graduate and undergraduate students will compete in a weekend, around-the-clock, “Hackathon” to promote cross-disciplinary collaboration among CSU’s eight colleges. Provided with hardware and code writers, teams will race to create the best virtual reality experience.

Envisioning herself as a participant in the program, Nicole Ramo, a Ph.D. student in the biomedical engineering department, said she would contribute ideas for classroom function.

“There are so many applications — for biomedical engineering, you could move through the cardiac system, see what artificial valves look like,” said Ramo, who served on the committee assembled to organize the “Hackathon.” “You could be inside the chamber of the heart and get a real feel for some of these abstract and small scale things.”

Sophomore geology major Isaiah Beise said he was impressed and inspired by Thursday’s VR demonstration and the immersive, 360-degree experience of the Oculus Rift.

“You could go into the earth’s mantle. You could look at tectonic plates underwater,” said Beise, moments after going through a VR simulation. “This (technology) could definitely be used as a tool for learning and mastering concepts like how the plates move.”

The Virtual Reality Initiative is the brainchild of the Vice President for Research Alan Rudolph. Dr. Rudolph could not be reached for comment.

The next VR demonstration and informational talk is Feb. 9, from 1-2 p.m., in LSC room 304-306.


Collegian Reporter Diego Felix can be reached at or via Twitter @FMTLturntablist.