Imagine being on a virtual roller coaster ride or seeing the surface of the moon, all while sitting in a classroom chair. An experience like this is possible with the new 360-degree computer generated Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset available at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Creative Production Lab.
But what is the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset?
“It’s a head apparatus that you put on, and it allows you to view a full 360-degree environment that’s either computer generated or recorded elsewhere,” Creative Production Lab Assistant Drew Roberts said.
Students who visit the Creative Production Lab in Criss Library can view a variety of environments through the virtual reality program, including the surface of Mars, according to Roberts. Other environments available through the headset include the moon and Sahara Desert.
Roberts said the computer generated environment feels real to the user.
“When you put the headset on, you lose your sense of sight and sound in the environment that you are stepping into,” Roberts said.
The headset is controlled by the user’s head motions. By looking around while wearing the headset, the user is able to move through their virtual environment. For this reason, one of the main rules of virtual reality is that the person wearing the headset must control the motion with their head in order to avoid motion sickness.
“When you try to force motion on to someone that they aren’t generating themselves is what causes them [to get] motion sick sometimes,” Roberts said. “Most people love it [enough] that they still try it anyway. They know it might make them a little motion sick, but they don’t care.”
The Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset is more than just a toy, however. Roberts said that providing students with the opportunity to view outer space or ride a virtual roller coaster is what enables the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset to be used as a learning tool as well.
“Having the Oculus Rift headset can give a student the immersive experience to witness things and objects virtually that they probably couldn’t do in person,” Roberts said.
The chance to learn and view the world through the virtual reality headset without ever leaving the classroom is exciting to many students, including Justin Ramsdell.
“I think there could be a use for the Oculus headset in the classroom,” Ramsdell said. “What would be cool is if Google was able to use Google Maps and make an application that allows people to visit other locations in the world with the Oculus headset.”
Students interested in testing out the headset can visit the Creative Production Lab in room 248 in Criss Library.
Staff members are also available to discuss how to create virtual reality content, according to UNO’s website.