It’s nearing the end of the semester here at the University of Michigan, with final exams and snow on the horizon. Many students are longing to be elsewhere, immersed in an environment that doesn’t involve studying and shoveling– and with a little help from the UM3D Lab, they can be.
Recently the UM3D Lab purchased two Oculus Rifts, a virtual-reality headset designed to create an immersive and interactive virtual environment. Though it seems small and inconspicuous (roughly the size of ski-goggles) the Oculus Rift has an incredible capacity for visualization. It has 360° head-tracking, which means users can look around an environment seamlessly, just as they would in real life. Their movements are tracked in time as they happen, creating a natural feeling of movement and visual perception, allowing users to feel as though they have been transported somewhere else. Using an Xbox controller, individuals can move around to explore, and even alter their environment (such as picking up and throwing a basketball). The Oculus Rift is worn on the head, and each eye looks into a slightly different projected screen to create a sense of depth.
The Oculus was designed for gaming, but it has many uses– from walking through re-creations of the city of Oplontis (destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD) to viewing microscopic structures of renal diseases. If you are working on a project that involves advanced visualization, or you are intrigued by the idea of virtual reality, the Oculus Rift is an excellent resource for you. To experience this for yourself, visit the 3D Lab during open hours (M-F, 9-6 p.m.) and let a staff member know you are interested in trying it out. UM3D Lab staff and student-employees are always willing (and excited!) to show the potential uses of our new technologies to those interested in how our resources can help them achieve the full potential of their academic or personal ideas and projects. Putting the Oculus Rift on is truly like teleporting to another place: stop by the 3D lab today to experience it for yourself.