VR, AR, and the Internet of Things: Life Beyond Second Life

[According to this Campus Technology interview with Phil Repp, the VP for IT at Ball State, there are many new opportunities to view ancient ruins, use simulations in the health sciences, or understand the mechanics of flight using AR/VR.]

By Mary Grush 12/06/16

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It gets even more interesting when virtual and augmented reality meet the Internet of Things.”  — Phil Repp

Ball State University has been exploring virtual reality since the early days of Second Life. Here, CT talks with Vice President for Information Technology Phil Repp about how our hyper reality has changed, with more advanced virtual reality, augmented reality, the ability to work in HD, the inclusion of the IoT and datasets, and the increasing accessibility of related tools and devices.

Mary Grush: When did Ball State University start working with virtual reality and related technologies, and why was that priority for you?

Phil Repp: Our own efforts in VR began in the mid-90s and grew out of the need to have greater visualization of ideas in many of our disciplines on campus.

Grush: Hadn’t there been strides in visualization in some disciplines much earlier than that?

Repp: Ways to visualize ideas has been a kind of search for a very long time, particularly in the design disciplines. You can even find it dating back to the 15th century in examples like Filippo Brunelleschi, who invented perspective: He didn’t like the idea of flat drawings of his buildings, so he learned how to show dimension through perspective. And there have been stages in various disciplines over time — e.g., mathematics and the sciences — where discipline-specific visualization tools took several steps forward.

So the search for better visualization of ideas has been on for centuries, but recently technology has taken it to a whole different level. And VR can both span disciplines and offer an intuitive experience.

For us at Ball State University, when technology tools started to get more sophisticated and VR became more generally available — you remember the early days of Second Life, for example — that’s when we began experimenting with the hyper reality of representing and visualizing ideas.

Soon we were using many 3D tools, virtual reality, and augmented reality to move ourselves toward the ability to represent things in a way that would be closer to what’s in a person’s mind’s eye in sharing and communicating an idea.

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