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Sophomores Matthew Gill and Kyrin Pollock discuss "The reality of Virtual Reality" at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity on the Osterhout Concert Theater stage.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
TEDx: Sophomores envision a future of virtual reality
March 22, 2016Tweet
Both Kyrin Pollock and Matthew Gill understand how any form of daydreaming, whether about a favorite vacation spot or having the life of a celebrity, sets the stage for virtual reality.
“Whatever the case may be,” Pollock said, “in all these situations, while your body is physically in the present world, your mind is in another world. You’ve created a virtual reality for yourself.”
Pollock, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering and Gill, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering, collaborated on a talk called “The reality of Virtual Reality” at TEDxBinghamtonUniversity at the Osterhout Concert Theater on March 20. As members of Enhance VR, a virtual reality-based start-up company founded in the spring of 2015, they spoke about what virtual reality is, and discussed its merits.
“Virtual reality is a computer-generated environment in which the user can physically interact,” Pollock said.
Access to headsets, such as oculus rifts, enables users to submerge themselves in various settings. Through these devices, users are exposed to a 360-degree, three-dimensional view of computer-generated locations.
“The more senses that are stimulated, the more our brains believe that what we’re experiencing is real,” Gill said.
Pollock and Gill noticed that much of today’s virtual-reality technology focuses solely on the visual aspect. To take virtual reality to the next level, they built a motion stimulator with their team last spring. It is capable of moving users forward, backward and from side-to-side.
“We built the stimulator because we wanted the user to experience the excitement of acceleration,” Gill said.
The stimulator was constructed with materials including PVC pipes, recycled bike parts and duct tape. The cost of the project stayed within a college-student budget of under $1,000, a factor that Pollock and Gill take pride in. The duo presented the audience with a video of the stimulator in action. In the short clip, a user wore an oculus headset while experiencing the stimulator as if he was driving on a racetrack through controlling a video-game console.
“Once we can trick the brain into believing the stimulated visuals, our other senses can be more easily fooled as well,” Pollock said.
Pollock and Gill addressed the potential that virtual-reality technology can bring to education. From experiencing historical events to exploring the many layers of the earth, virtual-reality technology can help students to physically visualize course material in a classroom setting. The Google Expeditions Pioneer Program is an example of a platform that endorses virtual reality in education.
“Studies show that when the experience is more memorable, more senses are involved,” Gill said. “When more senses are involved, the emotional experience of the user intensifies, which can help develop emotional intelligence.”
Pollock and Gill defined emotional intelligence, or EQ, as the ability to understand one another, and to connect to the social environment. They emphasized that research has proven that EQ is as good as a predictor – if not better – than IQ when looking at future levels of success.
“Education using virtual reality has the ability to connect our minds and bodies, and integrate it to a more sensory experience overall,” Pollock said. “This goes to show that virtual reality is helping to develop emotional intelligence.”
Besides education, virtual-reality technology has also spread to the film industry. Pollock and Gill provided the audience with an example of a virtual-reality movie called “Blackout.” Viewers of the movie are given the opportunity to experience telepathy during a blackout on a subway train, which allows them insight into the backgrounds and thoughts of the passengers they encounter who are stuck in the same predicament.
“Virtual reality, in a sense, could maybe shed a new light on your daily life,” Gill said, “or better yet, how about a new perspective on others in our world?”
Virtual reality is also starting to influence how news is consumed. Through the New York Times VR, consumers can use smartphones and a Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer to experience news as if they were there when it happened. Pollock and Gill demonstrated how this innovation works by presenting a recent New York Times piece about a vigil held for those who died from the Paris attacks, accompanied by pictures and their narrations.
The duo ended the talk by stressing how virtual reality can assist us in learning about and engaging with the world we live in. They added that it could broaden the scope of research, exploration, science, education and travel.
“Virtual reality is not cutting us off from our current world,” Pollock said. “Rather, it is opening us up to a world of possibilities.”