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Distinguished lecturer talks virtual reality in modern world

Widespread use of virtual reality has yet to become the world’s reality, but it may not be too far away.

Colorado State University welcomed Doug Bowman on Oct. 14 to speak on augmented reality and immersive analytics as part of the Distinguished Lectures series, hosted by the Information Science and Technology Center.

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Bowman, a computer science professor at Virginia Tech, looks at how virtual or augmented reality can best serve the general public. His research asks how people might want to use this technology and what barriers there are to access it. 

“We really want to know if there are measurable benefits to using this technology for doing visualization of data,” Bowman said. “Do we understand things better? Do we discover things faster? Do we get insights that we couldn’t get otherwise?”

ISTeC Director Edwin Chong said ISTeC is an organization that covers all colleges on campus, with one of the main activities they hold every semester being the Distinguished Lectures series. The series is meant to be accessible to students of any major and provide simple insight into more complex topics. 

Bowman discussed the purpose of virtual reality, the problems that developers come across and research that he is currently working on. He said that when he was a graduate student, virtual reality research focused on specific tasks, such as showing building designs for architects or training surgeons to operate.

He believes that augmented reality could allow for users to conveniently work on tasks from anywhere in the world they might otherwise complete on a computer or a smartphone.

“I think that his research in augmented reality is pretty cutting edge, especially with the shared spaces and using one augmented reality headset to witness another augmented reality headset,” said Vidya Gaddy, a graduate student who works in the Natural User Interfaces lab.

We really want to know if there are measurable benefits to using this technology for doing visualization of data.” -Doug Bowman, computer science professor at Virginia Tech

Although the research in virtual and augmented reality is far from complete, Bowman was optimistic about its future.

“We can put any digital content anywhere we want at any time,” Bowman said.

Bowman showed videos of his experiments, which displayed different interfaces that act like apps on a computer, and the different methods of interaction that one could use. He said they found pros and cons to navigating the interface with a device like a joystick or to navigating it with body movements.

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“I think we’re at a sweet spot right now in terms of doing this research because we have some pretty good AR hardware,” Bowman said. “We can prototype all these things we envision for the future and do these studies. Hopefully the results of those studies can be applied in a few years.”

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb

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About the Contributor
Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief
Serena Bettis is your 2022-23 editor in chief and is in her final year studying journalism and political science. In her three years at The Collegian, Bettis has also been a news reporter, copy editor, news editor and content managing editor, and she occasionally takes photos, too. When Bettis was 5, her family moved from Iowa to a tiny town northwest of Fort Collins called Livermore, Colorado, before eventually moving to Fort Collins proper. When she was 8 years old, her dad enrolled at Colorado State University as a nontraditional student veteran, where he found his life's passion in photojournalism. Although Bettis' own passion for journalism did not stem directly from her dad, his time at CSU and with The Collegian gave her the motivation to bite down on her fear of talking to strangers and find The Collegian newsroom on the second day of classes in 2019. She's never looked back since. Considering that aforementioned fear, Bettis is constantly surprised to be where she is today. However, thanks to the supportive learning environment at The Collegian and inspiring peers, Bettis has not stopped chasing her teenage dream of being a professional journalist. Between working with her section editors, coordinating news stories between Rocky Mountain Student Media departments and coaching new reporters, Bettis gets to live that dream every day. When she's not in the newsroom or almost falling asleep in class, you can find Bettis working in the Durrell Marketplace and Café or outside gazing at the beauty that is our campus (and running inside when bees are nearby). This year, Bettis' goals for The Collegian include continuing its trajectory as a unique alt-weekly newspaper, documenting the institutional memory of the paper to benefit students in years to come and fostering a sense of community and growth both inside the newsroom and through The Collegian's published work. Bettis would like to encourage anyone with story ideas, suggestions, questions, concerns or comments to reach out to her at editor@collegian.com.

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