State-of-the-art virtual reality classroom

Bryce Bartlett, a senior in Computer Science, uses the VR Classroom for a class assignment. “This equipment is the bleeding edge of VR,” said Bartlett. “It’s awesome to be able to come here and use this technology which is the newest available on the market.”

The J. Willard Marriott Library is always working to expand access to cutting-edge technology. In response to feedback from students and faculty, the library’s Creativity and Innovation Services team has created a virtual reality-enabled classroom which allows teams and classes to explore the latest developments in VR hardware and software. Equipped with high-end workstations and state-of-the-art “valve index” headsets, the room is configured with VR interaction and immersive learning in mind.

The classroom is already being used by faculty and students in a number of creative ways. Rogelio Cardona-Rivera is an assistant professor who teaches in both the School of Computing and the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program. His research has been funded by the Department of Energy in addition to some game companies. It focuses on the design of games and interactive systems where players direct an unfolding experience by taking on roles. Students in the class are tasked with understanding the technical building blocks of VR and using those pieces to build new immersive interactions and experiences.

Assistant Professor Rogelio Cardona-Rivera, teaches in both the School of Computing and the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program and uses the VR classroom with his students.

“I’m a big believer in the transformative power of video games,” said Cardona-Rivera.

As a young child, Cardona-Rivera had a severe lazy eye. His physician recommended he try using video games to see if that would improve his condition.

“It was then that my parents bought me a Super Nintendo,” said Cardona-Rivera. “I played it while covering my ‘good eye’ and forcing my lazy eye to focus on the screen to keep playing games. I played so much that I avoided the need for surgery altogether.”

Rogelio now teaches both an undergraduate and graduate VR class.

“Having the library’s VR classroom is extremely helpful as it’s the only classroom of its type on campus,” said Cardona-Rivera. “I want to put VR technologies into the hands of students. I encourage all students to use whatever VR hardware they can get their hands on and that simply would not be possible without the library’s help. Having access to the VR technology removes a barrier for students wanting to jump in and work on coursework. The VR Classroom has proven to be an invaluable catalyst for learning in my class.”

The library will be offering open demonstrations and walk-throughs from 12-2 p.m. every Wednesday for the remainder of the fall semester. If you would like a hands-on demo of the room, please contact Tony Sams at tony.sams@utah.edu or 801-585-9780.