College life can be stressful, and sometimes you just want to get away from it all.
With UT Libraries’ new Virtual Reality Room, you can get away from it all without going anywhere.
UT Libraries’ Studio opened the Virtual Reality Room, or VR Room, this fall in the South Commons of Hodges Library. This new space is equipped with an HTC Vive gaming system that offers current students, faculty, and staff an escape from reality.
VR gamers are transported into 360-degree digital landscapes with the Vive headset. These immersive opportunities range from high-intensity games like Beat Saberto more calming experiences like The Blu/Whale Encounter.
The Studio offers about 30 virtual reality games and experiences through Steam, an online video game distribution platform, and is currently taking suggestions for other games. Patrons are welcome to log in to their personal Steam accounts to play, too.
Due to the increasing popularity of this new space, it is recommended that groups and individuals reserve the room online in advance. Gamers check in at the Studio desk in South Commons with their UT ID. Staff members assist with renting out the controllers and preparing the space.
Before the VR Room was established, the Studio operated its virtual reality gaming system from a cart that traveled from one empty classroom to another when requested.
“Having a permanent space gives students an easier way to experience VR with less time spent on equipment setup and a more ideal space for the activities that go along with VR,” said UT Libraries Digital Media Specialist Sarah Zimmerman.
The VR Room is a great place to blow off steam and have fun. According to Media Literacy Librarian Michelle Brannen, it is also a valuable learning experience.
“We’re seeing a lot more starting to happen in academics with virtual reality,” Brannen said.
Researchers are uncovering the many educational benefits of virtual reality as technology progresses. Programs allow students to create and examine virtual 3D models, travel the world with Google Earth, or conduct science experiments in a risk-free immersive virtual laboratory.
UT students have been using VR to supplement their studies in subjects from kinesiology to journalism. The studio has a portable VR system that can be assembled in library classrooms where faculty can hold classes.
“If you can come and try it and experience it, you start to see the possibilities that are down the road and how it can be incorporated into the field that you are studying,” said Brannen.