Virtual Reality Technology Allows Remote Campus Tours


The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is making use of virtual reality glasses and accompanying programs to bring the college to accepted students who may not be able to make an in-person campus visit.

10,000 pairs of cardboard goggles are scheduled to be sent to prospective and current students. According to Dian Schaffhauser of Campus Technology, the first batch of headsets are going to accepted students who haven't yet decided whether they are going to attend. It will allow them to use the gyroscope in their smartphones to virtually tour the SCAD campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and France to help finalize their admissions decision.

In the future, enrolled students will be able to virtually attend events at other SCAD campuses.

Google Cardboard can be folded into a pair of goggles into which users can slide their smartphones. During a tour, students can explore by focusing on a pinpointed location, to which they will then be transported. Chris Burns of Slashgear reports that they can also access a gallery menu by looking down at their feet.

SCAD hopes to integrate this technology further into college life and include it in coursework as well. Tarana Mayes quotes Josephine Leong, a professor of interactive design and game development at SCAD, who described the value of the technology:

What we're starting to see is VR for the masses. I show these tools to my students because they are going to be designing for this generation. Google put it out there, but it's up to the individual to figure out how to use it. That's what's going to make it innovative.

SCAD, with the virtual reality company YouVisit as their partner, looks forward to being able to create "spherical videos" that allow total immersion in 360-degree environments. YouVisit allows users to create their own virtual tours for free, which are available to anyone with a virtual reality headset, including Sony brand or Oculus Rift. Users that want to work with YouVisit professionals can opt in for a paid Premium account.

SCAD hopes to expand the technology to high schools and encourage the use of this technology in the fields of animation, architecture, film and television, interior design, and jewelry-making.

Celeste Guichard, an architectural history professor, outlines both challenges and promise:

One difficult thing about teaching architectural history in a classroom is that the building being taught must be conveyed primarily through still, two-dimensional images limited to the size of the projection screen. With its ability to transport students from the classroom to, say, the Pantheon in Rome and give them power to navigate and explore, immersive virtual reality technology could do wonders for helping students experience and learn about a building– or a city or garden– more effectively. Teachers could structure a lesson as though they were there, in person, with their students.

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