Take a moment to think back to the 1990s. When someone used the words “virtual reality,” people often thought of everything from ‘Battlezone” to the full immersion found in the Lawnmower Man. Fast forward to the post millennium computers of today, and we see the fruition of virtual reality. Two of the most popular “off the shelf” systems, Occulus Rift and the HTC Vive offer a level of immersion only available to places like MIT during the 1990s.
The University of Buffalo Neurocognition Science Laboratory (UBNCSL) part of the Graduate School of Education, has recently added the HTC Vive to it’ set of tools designed to explore human learning. The HTC Vive was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in 2015 and only recently became available for purchase. The Vive consists of a headset with two 1080p screens –one for each eye-, two controllers and two motion capture sensors. Sam Abramovich an Assistant Professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction said “The newest VR technology isn’t just a drastic improvement over what was possible in the past; it also provides new opportunity for studying how people can best learn. It’s incredibly exciting to have this lab here at UB and to see the research collaborations that will emerge from it!”
The major attraction of the new virtual reality headset is the incredibly realistic environments rendered in each session. Environments range from coral reefs with innumerable fish, sea turtles, and jellyfish to interplanetary and interstellar space where you can hold Jupiter or Proxima Centauri in the palm of your hand. As this technology develops we in the Department of Learning and Instruction will continue to research and develop pedagogical approaches that maximize the use of this powerful new learning tool.