Students visiting the Edens gaming suite will now be able to immerse themselves in video games—literally.
A new virtual reality room recently debuted in the Edens game room—also known as The Bolt—allows students to play any of the 50 games currently programmed on the system. The system was built by Mark-Everett McGill, a senior analyst in the Office of Information Technology, in approximately eight months.
“We wanted to bring something that was rather unique to our residential areas,” said Joe Gonzalez, dean for residential life. “The whole purpose of The Bolt was to bring something new and fun to student life, and that certainly seems to have been a very big success. My hope is that the same thing happens to the virtual reality space.”
Rick Johnson, associate vice president of student affairs for Housing, Dining and Residence Life, wrote in an email that the virtual reality room was always slated to be a part of the gaming suite. However, delays with the vendor caused the room to be opened this year instead of during the Bolt’s grand opening last Fall on the second floor of Edens 1C.
Although the new virtual reality room may be entertaining for those that visit, McGill said that the technology will also serve educational purposes. One of the current programs that students can use in the virtual reality room involves manipulating the solar system and observing the impact of those changes.
“Even though it’s kind of a play-around toybox, there is still a lot of education behind it,” McGill said.
Other games may cause students to work up a sweat, McGill said, because they involve the player actually moving to play a first-person fantasy game.
In the future, McGill noted that some students may be able to write programs for games that can be used in the virtual reality room.
Because the technology is so novel and in the early stages of being implemented, Gonzalez said that he hopes students will eventually apply it to other purposes. Johnson echoed these sentiments.
“[Virtual reality] in The Bolt has the ability to not only build community around a really cutting edge technology, but it can be used for academic purposes, and students can write VR software,” Johnson wrote in an email.
Junior Vincent Miao stumbled upon the virtual reality room during its opening and said he was impressed.
“I’ve never used any [virtual reality device] with motion sensing like the one in The Bolt, so that was super, super cool,” Miao said. “It’s a unique experience that you don’t get everywhere.”
Johnson added that there are no other universities in the country that offer a game room with a virtual reality component in a residence hall.
Gonzalez explained that because the technology is still relatively new, OIT will staff the virtual reality room to ensure that everything is used correctly and securely.
The Edens game room opened last Fall as a part of a renovation project to Edens Quadrangle that improved facilities and added a gym and fitness studio. The game room also features computer gaming desktops and screens for Playstation, Wii and Xbox games, including four that are combined into one larger display.