When the goggles were placed over my eyes and my primary connection to the real world was cut off, I was thrown very off balance. My sense of direction became linked solely to the virtual reality in the Immersion Technology Lab at Stephen F. Austin State University. I was no longer on solid ground but, rather, hundreds of feet below the sea.
Above me shined a light on the surface of the water. Below me rocked the remains of a sunken ship and a drop off at the ship’s edges I most certainly did not approach. My brain knew I was safely inside about a 10-by-14 foot room, but my eyes told me I was in the middle of the deep, blue sea. The experience was mind boggling and closer to reality than I expected a virtual reality to be, but the scenery could not compare to the dark form of the whale that suddenly came towering serenely above me.
The process began by putting on virtual reality goggles that slip over the head and secure via straps. Then two controllers of sorts were placed into my hands, and I used them to command the virtual reality. I was slightly disappointed that the experience wasn’t very interactive, but there are other versions of the virtual reality I experienced with more interactivity.
Wherever I looked, the view of the ocean and my surroundings followed. As I walked, I got closer to the side of the boat, and I felt the need to avoid the fish and, especially, the giant whale, even though I knew it was only in the goggles.
My convergent reporting teacher, Kasi Dickerson, took the class to the Immersion Technology Lab to teach us how to write descriptively, and it was a great place to learn. The lab is open to teachers and students at SFA who wish to learn from the technology or to simply have fun experiencing the virtual reality.
The lab is located in the Ralph W. Steen Library. The lab’s end goal is to create a fully-functioning Virtual Reality Learning/Creation hub online with multiple workstations equipped with high-end PCs and virtual reality goggles from both HTC and Oculus. Here is a video from the lab’s website of SFA faculty trying out the virtual reality technology:
For more information on the Immersion Technology Lab, check out their website: https://library.sfasu.edu/vr.