In November, UCI’s Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games (IVECG), along with UCI Libraries and the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), launched a campuswide VR Headsets Loan Program. With a student ID, you can now visit the Multimedia Resources Center (MRC) to check out a headset and controllers for 72 hours.
“The goal is to excite students about developing in VR,” says Isabela Figueira, a computer science Ph.D. student who joined the IVECG this summer and helped develop a 10-week course on VR (which will be offered during the 2020-21 academic year) as well as a VR Worlds workshop. Thanks to the new loan program, students now have easy access to VR goggles — including five Oculus Rift AR/VR headset units donated by Facebook — which they can use while accessing VR content online (through Oculus, for example) or when building their own programs.
Anyone interested in learning how to build their own applications should register by Jan. 6, 2020 for the three-day VR Worlds workshop, which takes place Jan. 10-12 in Donald Bren Hall. The cost is $100, with food and beverages included. Based on enrollment numbers, the IVECG hopes to starting offering the workshop quarterly.
“Participants will learn to use Unity by building a simple game, and they will learn to build more immersive environments that utilize the VR headset and controller,” explains Figueira. Such games could be for entertainment or part of a larger research project. For example, fellow IVECG member and computer science Ph.D. student Ali Rostami is exploring whether immersing a burn victim patient in a very cold VR environment, such as in the snow, could affect pain levels.
“VR has already proven useful in a variety of applications, including medicine, teaching and training, therapy, and gaming,” explains Figueiria. “As VR continues to improve in quality, we will see more useful applications come out that could change the way we approach problems.”
So, head to the library today to check out a headset and start exploring the emerging world of VR. Better yet, sign up for the workshop so you can learn how to build your own VR environment!
— Shani Murray