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In November, UCI’s Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games (IVECG), along with UCI Libraries and the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), launched a campuswide VR Headsets Loan Program. With a student ID, you can now visit the Multimedia Resources Center (MRC) to check out a headset and controllers for 72 hours.

A participant reacts to seeing a dinosaur in virtual reality (shown on the monitor) at the VR Loan Program launch party in November.

“The goal is to excite students about developing in VR,” says Isabela Figueira, a computer science Ph.D. student who joined the IVECG this summer and helped develop a 10-week course on VR (which will be offered during the 2020-21 academic year) as well as a VR Worlds workshop. Thanks to the new loan program, students now have easy access to VR goggles — including five Oculus Rift AR/VR headset units donated by Facebook — which they can use while accessing VR content online (through Oculus, for example) or when building their own programs.

For those interested in learning how to build their own applications, the IVECG hosted a three-day, $100 VR Worlds workshop in January, where participants learned how to develop their own interactive environments from scratch.

Workshop attendees learning to build their own VR applications.

“Everyone at the workshop walked away with a game they built in Unity and VR environment(s),” explains Figueira. “Our workshop caters to people from a variety of backgrounds and interests, since we teach the fundamentals thoroughly so that attendees can leave knowing how to create projects and where to search for more information.” Such projects could be for entertainment or research purposes. For example, fellow IVECG member and computer science Ph.D. student Ali Rostami is exploring whether immersing a burn victim patient in a very cold VR environment, such as in the snow, could affect pain levels.

“VR has already proven useful in a variety of applications, including medicine, teaching and training, therapy, and gaming,” explains Figueiria. “As VR continues to improve in quality, we will see more useful applications come out that could change the way we approach problems.”

So, head to the library today to check out a headset and start exploring the emerging world of VR. And if you missed the January workshop, don’t worry! IVECG plans to offer another workshop in the spring. Details will appear on the IVECG events page in the coming months.

Shani Murray

Some of the people instrumental in organizing the VR Loan Program (from left): Jose Perez (Media Resources Center), Kristine Ferry (UCI Libraries), Aditi Majumder (Director of IVECG and Computer Science Professor), Isabela Figueira (Ph.D. student), Jason King (ICS Associate Director of Development), and Ali Rostami (Ph.D. student).