Student Brandon Laing squeezes the steering wheel of his race car for dear life, or at least, that’s what it feels like. When he looks to the left, he sees the shoulder of the road. When he looks to right, he sees a car trying to pass him. He can’t see a wall, he can’t see a projector screen, and yet he hears people faintly chattering. At the end of the race, he takes off the headset, and remembers he is standing in a classroom at the college.
Virtual reality headsets have come to campus, enabling users to enter a virtual world. The headsets will not only be used for games, but also for educational purposes.
“You don’t really have the peripheral distractions once you go fully into it,” Laing said. “[In] a racing game, you feel like you’re in the cockpit of a fast moving car.”
The Fighting Video Game club has been using a VIVE headset since last semester. Student Carter Floyd, the owner of one of the headsets, believes the device is different from a regular console because of the player’s immersion into the game.
“It’s so easy to get lost, especially if that’s all you’re seeing,” Floyd said. “It changes up your entire field of view rather than just looking at a projector. Plus, the hand controllers. Everything makes you feel completely in the game, [it’s] a lot different than just playing on a controller [or] on a TV.”
The Educational Technology department at the college has another type of headset, the Oculus Rift, but it has yet to be unboxed and put to use. Ed Lovitt, Director of Educational Technology and Distance Learning, has an idea for the headset very different from gaming.
“The goal is not to only buy a 3D video camera, but to develop [3D videos] ourselves,” Lovitt said. “As an institution, we need to think about the educational applications. We can use it for anatomy. Can I take you into a body? Or a cell?”
Lovitt said he believes the headset will be able to let people walk around events at the college who weren’t actually there.
“If there’s an event at the Regnier Center and someone can’t make it, then they can put on the headset and experience it,” Lovitt said.
Lovitt decided to get a headset for his department shortly after he heard the CoLab already had an Oculus Rift available for use. Christy McWard, Director of the Collaboration Center, believes the headset has many emerging uses for education.
“You could take virtual field trips,” McWard said. “Go tour the solar system, if you’re [in an] astronomy class. Take a peek into study abroad. Go look at the world, what might await you if you’re deciding upon to do a study abroad experience.”
Although the CoLab is still in the process of encouraging usage and building awareness of the headset, McWard believes the technology will only grow.
“The CoLab is really all about experiential learning and if virtual reality creates an immersive experience, then the CoLab seems like a great place to play with and experiment with it,” McWard said. “We are a place to experiment with technology.”
The CoLab is located in OCB 100 and is open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 8 a.m to 5 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Oculus Rift is available for checkout by students, but they can’t leave the CoLab with it.
To find out more about the Fighting Video Game club, contact the clubs advisor, Russ Hanna, at 913-469-8500, ext. 4167 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.