VIRTUAL REALITY COMES TO ECU: Laupus Library unveils first Virtual Reality Lab for campus community
User-friendly virtual reality has arrived on ECU’s Health Sciences Campus.
Laupus Library has unveiled a new Virtual Reality Lab, a virtual reality learning, experimentation and development workspace on the second floor of the library.
All ECU students, instructors and researchers can explore and experience the power of VR as part of academic coursework, a unique sensory experience or simply for fun.
Located in room 2508, the Virtual Reality Lab isequipped with five workstations. Each is outfitted with a powerful Alienware Aurora R8 Gaming PC, NEC 55-inch wall-mounted display, Dell 24-inch desktop gaming monitor and several versions of the latest headsets.
“It equalizes the playing field for everyone at ECU – every student and employee now has access to virtual reality technology,” said Beth Ketterman, director of Laupus Library. “The lab also represents what Laupus is about, which is providing a top notch, high-tech and enriching experience for all our patrons.”
The lab will add depth and dimension to many areas of health sciences curricula.
“I think the launch of the Virtual Reality Lab helps provide new, exciting tools and opportunities for enhanced, active learning,” said Dr. Kelly Harrell, course director for Medical Gross Anatomy and Embryology in the Brody School of Medicine.
Harrell explained that the anatomical sciences serve as a foundation for practice among medical, dental and health professionals.
“The VR lab can act as an adjunct to the Medical Gross Anatomy & Embryology course by providing a high-tech interactive instructional tool to students who may want more work with spatial relationships in the human body,” she said. “Depending on the application, VR can also be used to reinforce clinical anatomy concepts.
“I can also envision the space used as a peer-to-peer teaching environment, as our learners continue to explore more high-tech learning resources,” she said. “VR lab activities can be created and integrated into curricula in a way that can be self-directed for the learner and also provide additional insight to faculty in terms of student competence with content and skills.”
Educational technology consultant Dr. Irina Swain from the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences said Laupus’s Virtual Reality Lab will increase research capability and enhance teaching.
“We are ready for a different trajectory of learning in and outside of the classroom, and students are excited about it and are ready to try it,” Swain said. “Some of the faculty from the foreign languages department are piloting some forms of virtual reality in the curriculum this semester, but we need spaces like this that are open and available.”
Swain said German and Russian language classes are using the Google Earth VR app so students can be fully immersed and explore the world from totally new perspectives.
“Cultural immersion boosts students’ interest in studying culture and sparks study abroad participation,” Swain explained. “In my Russian language class, I can take students to Moscow, Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral built in the 16thcentury. With Google Earth VR, you can fly over a city, look at any monument and walk along the famous streets.”
It doesn’t matter if users are beginners or experienced users wanting to develop VR apps; any member of the ECU campus community can reap the benefits of the new technology.
“We want this to be a sandbox where people can come in and experiment,” said Nate Saunders, technology support lead for Laupus Library. “If someone has a goal in mind for something they want to create or a project they want to enhance or improve upon with a VR app, we can help with that.”
VR apps like Medicalholodeck, a medical platform for virtual and augmented reality, can be used by surgeons to prepare for upcoming surgeries, professors to teach human anatomy, physiology and radiology and students to study medical imaging and biovisualization.
The Sharecare VR app allows anyone to freely navigate and explore an anatomically accurate 3D model of the human body, its organs and their natural functions.
And Quill is a VR illustration and animation tool empowering creators to tell immersive stories.
“We also have an app request form online for users to specify special apps the library will consider purchasing,” Saunders said.
For those needing help developing programs or VR renderings, expert consultations are available upon request.
Workstations may be reserved individually or together for groups or class projects. All users are required to attend an orientation and safety presentation.
One-button recording studio
A One Button Studio is also now available on the second floor of the library. Laupus created its own version of this growing concept, pioneered by Pennsylvania State University, for ECU students, faculty and staff to easily record fast and free high-quality videos.
The studio drastically simplifies the video production workflow by eliminating several time-consuming steps. Custom software makes using this equipment and recording simple so time can be more wisely spent creating content.
This is the first such studio to be offered at ECU according to Roger Russell, associate director for Laupus Library. Russell said the One Button Studio will help students create videos for projects and assignments, help faculty prepare videos for class and distance education courses, product pitches and more.
“It’s wide open with endless capabilities,” Russell said. “With the use of our green screen your video can be shot from the top of the Empire State Building.”
No production skills are required to create a high-quality MP4 file that looks and sounds good, is well lit and self-contained. The One Button Studio is equipped with ceiling-mounted lights, video camera, projector and green screen. Just bring a thumb drive, insert it, hit the button, stand in place and you’re off.
The Virtual Reality Lab and One Button Studio are open weekdays in Laupus Library from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
PUBLISHED OCT 02, 2019 BY