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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

March 13, 2009


Participants react to the virtual environments they experience as part of their VRAC tour. Submitted photo by Kevin Teske.

Satisfy your curiosity about virtual reality

by Anne Krapfl

Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC) sponsors a free tour nearly every month that offers the curious a quick peek at what it is and how it works. Tours last an hour in the seated comfort of technology-enhanced Howe Hall auditorium. The next one is Friday, April 17. Because it's Veishea week, VRAC may add a couple extra tours if the demand is there, said Lynette Sherer, a program coordinator in the center. Tour participants must preregister online.

During a tour, graduate students give a 15-minute introduction to virtual reality and 3D technology, and then pass out 3D glasses. For the rest of the tour guests experience, in 3D stereo, various virtual environments, such as an MRI scan, a tropical island, mockups of farm equipment and a trip through multiple solar systems -- real and imagined. The C6 (6-sided virtual reality room) computers generate the images viewed on the 12-by-24-foot auditorium screen at a resolution more than four times that of a 1080p high-definition television.

"The visuals are very exciting. Our students have made a really impressive presentation," Sherer said.

She said past tours were held in Iowa State's C4 and C6 facilities -- and were very popular. But those rooms hold six to 10 people, which severely limited accessibility. To make better all-around use of the auditorium, the college invested about $0.5 million in technology upgrades. The improvements allowed VRAC to expand its tour size.

Sherer said the tour is appropriate for early elementary grades through adults. It's geared for people who know nothing about virtual reality, she said.


Sign up for a free virtual reality tour online.