University of Buffalo – Virtual Reality

There is one foolproof way to grasp what UB researchers say could be a dramatic breakthrough in how people learn, technology with educational potential comparable to a tape recorder, video camera or computer monitor.

And more to the point, it’s something UB is uniquely poised to advance.

Just strap on the virtual reality goggles, headgear that resembles a mix of a pilot’s oxygen mask and an expensive video game accessory. Don’t forget to tap your feet on the floor, a comforting reminder once the New Millennium amusement park ride of virtual reality begins.

Don’t forget to breathe. Establish some grounding signal, like a familiar voice in the room. A dose of immersive, mixed-reality environments, as it’s been called — with all its eerie, exciting, invigorating, disorientating and sometime unexpected sensations depending on the program and the person taking the journey — is on its way.

Open your eyes and all around is an underwater world teeming with fish, plants, submerged ships, coral — all moving around you and beckoning you to explore as if it were really happening. Up, down, right, left. Three-hundred-and sixty-degrees.

Total immersion, without an escape hatch short of yanking off those goggles. A school of bright fish emerge from behind a reef. A giant whale — more curious than menacing — approaches from behind. Aiming a handset at a plant makes it open, another visceral signal that this is really happening.

Prefer another location? Stand on top of Vesper Peak in the Northern Cascades, or float suspended in outer space and manipulate the planets as they revolve around a giant sun, all in exact scale as they exist in the solar system.

Follow a path inside an imaginary museum and stand in front of the “Mona Lisa” or the “Statue of David” or the “Terra Cotta Army” or the “Birth of Venus,” all visible a few virtual-reality moments away from each other.

An often-seen commercial for a commercial virtual-reality system shows a woman sobbing during her immersive experience. Once those goggles go on, it’s easy to understand such a strong reaction.

About UB:
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