Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality Facilitates Higher Ed Research and Teaches High-Risk Skills

Posted in Blog on 19 May 2016

From the outside, it’s nondescript: a large cube, surrounded by racks of projectors and topped with a frame holding additional projectors. Like so much else in life, though, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Duke University built the Duke immersive Virtual Environment in 2005 and upgraded it in 2015, funding both projects with National Science Foundation grants. “This kind of device was invented at the University of Chicago back in the early 1990s,” says DiVE Director Regis Kopper.

The DiVE was one of the first high-fidelity simulators that multiple people could experience simultaneously. Now, through the recent upgrade, users can take advantage of virtual reality simulations at four times the previous resolution.

Technology Builds on Deep Roots

In complex, risk-intensive fields and those involving high-pressure conditions, simulators like the DiVE can be an important piece of the learning process.

Alison Rudd, assistant director of the University of South Alabama Simulation Program, says developers coded the earliest simulators in the late 1970s for aerospace and medical uses, but online learning has given them new importance, she says.

“It’s challenging to find avenues for active learning in the online environment, and this is one way to engage students, both individually and in teams,” Rudd says.

Whether at Duke or at a host of other schools, the use of extremely rich contextual virtual environments is expanding opportunities for instructors to bring the world to their students.


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