Located in close proximity to the @One Service Desk on the first floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, this space was made to be a point of introduction to, exploration of, and eventual development in the world of Virtual and Augmented Reality. While this technology is becoming more accessible to everyday households, the space, technology, and cost of setting up a personal VR/AR setup is still not practical for most. We felt the library would be an ideal location to host this sort of space for the campus community who would not have access to it otherwise. This would also provide a place for those interested in this technology to show off work, collaborate, and network with others interested in these developing fields.
In 2016, gift moneys was made available to the Mathewson-IGT Library to come up with a new innovative space. Our proposal for the VR/AR studio was accepted and in October 2017, @Reality became a reality.
Equipped with four dedicated virtual reality stations - two Oculus Rift virtual reality systems and two HTC VIVE headsets. A first-of-its-kind virtual reality system, @Reality will also have a Meta2 Augmented Reality headset which is designed to bridge the gap between the virtual and real world with the most immersive Augmented Reality experience available on the market today. @Reality will also provide users with access to four VR computers, two Leap Motion finger and hand trackers, and more.
VR is an emergent technology that seeks to simulate reality by providing the user with an immersive visual, aural, and haptic experience. VR has moved from limited uses in military simulation and training to a commercially available mainstream technology.
Within the context of higher education, the New Media Consortium postulates a wide range of possible scholarly applications for VR. Possibilities include using VR for teaching empathy and other soft skills, to exploring environments that are too dangerous or unreachable. Furthermore, the New Media Consortium observes that "VR may one day be able to compete with Real Reality, and once it does, the possibilities are endless."
Several University faculty are integrating VR into their courses. For example, Gideon Caplovitz, Psychology, is researching human vision perception by analyzing how the brain can be fooled by 2D optical illusions. Howard Goldbaum, Journalism, is working on digital-heritage virtual reality environments, especially in Ireland and Nevada. His work focuses on locations that are difficult to access or those that require special permission to enter. Other University faculty are using this technology to research the affects on the brain regarding 2D vs. real world objects, they are also documenting things like the Burning Man festival and much more.
"The primary reason in establishing @Reality was based on the fact that no centralized space for this type of work exists on campus," said Daniel Fergus, manager of Student Digital Media Technology for University Libraries, Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. "Many faculty are using the technology in their classes and for research, but faculty were working in silos without the awareness of what others on campus were doing. @Reality is to serve as a pollinator of sorts - a place where everyone can come together, share resources, and help cross-pollinate ideas to help develop the University's VR culture."
The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine motor development program, psychiatry and political science departments have all made inquiries as to the efficacies of applying this technology to their disciplines.
"My research focuses on understanding the neural bases of how people visually experience the world," Associate Professor and Director of the Cognitive and Brain Sciences Graduate Program Gideon Caplovitz said. "With support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, my lab develops novel stimuli that elicit misperceptions of reality (visual illusions), and uses them in conjunction with non-invasive neuroimaging technologies to identify neural correlates of what we see. @Reality represents a foundational resource for my research program, and is an extremely valuable platform to be used for the training of undergraduate and graduate students. This space is sure to become a true University treasure."
Below are some of the departments actively doing research using this technology.
- Computer Science Engineering
- Medical School
- Mining Engineering
One way for members of the University community or local developers of VR/AR content to get involved is to attend the VR/AR meet-up event that takes place in October in the Wells Fargo Auditorium located on the first floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. The VR/AR meet-up provides an opportunity to University faculty using this technology to showcase their work, share experiences, ask questions, mingle, and get a sneak peek at of the new @Reality studio.
Professors scheduled to present at the VR/AR Meet-up include, but aren't limited to: Eelke Folmer and Fred Harris from Computer Science and Engineering; Jacqueline Snow from Psychology (clinical neuropsychology); Paul Macneilage from Psychology (vision science); and Gi Yun, Laura Croswell, Howard Goldbaum from the Reynolds School of Journalism.
"Having this meet-up event take place in conjunction with the opening of @Reality is a true asset to the University community," Folmer said. "The meet-up allows students and faculty to come together to learn about and experience VR in a new, fun and exciting way."
Accessibility & Virtual Reality
Evan W. Gadda is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Musical Theatre. The team at @One Digital Media within the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center was able to bring a virtual reality experience to him with the hopes to bring this to more people.