Students enter a new reality

The VR zone opens up in Black Hall

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Samuel Beaumonte, Staff Reporter

The latest technological installment in the Multimodal Education Center (MEC) is the Virtual Reality zone, a space dedicated for students to try out and enjoy virtual reality in an educational setting.

“It seemed like a good investment for our money,” Chad Schone, the director of the MEC said, “I’m always looking for new tech for us and I know virtual reality is an upcoming technology that has a lot of potential.”

To be able to use the “VR zone,” students are required to take an hour-long training course that is held at the MEC in Black Hall every Friday at 2 p.m.

“It’s a fairly short info session, so it’s meant so that our staff doesn’t have to babysit any of the students. As long as they use the equipment responsibly, they’ll be fine,” Schone said.

Senior Elizabeth Johnson, an employee at the MEC and a supply chain and finance major, is one of the two instructors currently tasked with teaching students how to use the VR zone.

“We want to establish respect for the equipment,” Johnson said. “We also want to have the students know how to utilize the VR and understand it enough so they can get through it on their own.”

After completing training, students are able to schedule a time to use the VR by signing into their CWU student account and navigating through their Outlook calendar and using the available scheduling assistant to rent the room for an hour at a time.

“Currently, students will be able to schedule the VR zone for almost an hour, but that may change depending on how big it gets,” Schone said. “Right now we have about 10 games and we’re trying to limit it to educational and creative uses.”

Some of the games currently in the MEC library include Tiltbrush, Universe Sandbox, Modbox and Waltz of the Wizard.

“There’s plenty of VR experiences that take you to other places, and we’re open to letting [students] bring in their own VR experiences and store them if they’re appropriate, Schone said.

One of the first students to go through the training was sophomore Jerry Buell, a computer science major who hadn’t tried virtual reality before he visited the VR zone.

“It’s disorienting at first because you’re seeing things, but you’re aware of what’s happening in real life. But then you put the headset on and you’re teleported elsewhere,” Buell said.

Virtual reality currently has a lot of variations with it’s development starting years with some traces going back to the 1860s and, while there have been teases of popular VR brands through advertising and social media, the real simulator manages to surprise students and staff alike.

“It wasn’t what I expected. I had seen videos of virtual reality before, but this was beautiful. It didn’t disappoint,” Buell said.