On Thursday I attended Ed. Tech. Day at Ithaca College. It’s a free event designed for educators to keep informed about technological advancements for educational applications. I had the honor of spending a few minutes under the influence of the HTC Vive virtual reality (VR) headset and paddles. I say under the influence because the virtual program to which I was transported seemed so serene that the surrounding sounds faded out of focus (the bustling hubbub of vendors packing up or attendees anxious to learn or get free).
At first I was concerned by warnings that VR can trigger motion sickness–that occurred to me right after I boldly requested to have a try at it. I was glad to find that the fairly static images in the program, and optional rotation of the model, was not especially unsettling after the initial orientation. Rather, I was impressed by the way my brain interprets visual and sound cues differently when they don’t go together. As a learner who is easily distracted, I very much appreciated settling into a space that I could have this close and sort of private interaction with a learning tool and have my brain disregard the crowd.
I feel sorry that I didn’t have someone take pictures. I’m sure I would have at least one if more of our staff were able to come, but in lieu of photos I made a couple of rough sketches. The first one is of the setup where I was corralled off a little and had an attendant explaining the system to me as I used it. I think she was able to see roughly what I saw using a monitor laptop nearby.
The second sketch is very primitively what it looked like inside the HTC Vive; there was a brain, or a heart, eye, or a set of lungs the size of me! I could turn it, toggle labels on and off, and cycle through a series of models and section views that make it easier to see particular parts of each organ.
In short, this VR headset seems to be a great learning tool that I think library patrons would really benefit by if we can swing the cost, the staffing, and the sanitation methods (they had a tissue that skirted the bit of the mask that touches your face, but it’s clearly not ideal). These systems are made for homes, for individuals, but not everyone is going to be able to access the market–at least not for a long while.
I know I reference PC Mag a lot, but here’s their 2018 rundown of VR headsets: https://www.pcmag.com/article/342537/the-best-virtual-reality-vr-headsets