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New virtual reality lab renders concepts in 3-D

A new laboratory offering three-dimensional visualization of math concepts and computer science object models now offers students in WCU’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department a unique tool for their assignments and projects.

Geoff Goehle, associate professor in the department, said the Mathematics and Computer Science Virtual Reality Laboratory uses the state-of-the-art HTC Vive virtual reality system.

Sloan Despeaux, professor, experiences a 3-D environment generated by the Mathematics and Computer Science Department's new virtual reality equipment, while Geoff Goehle, seated, monitors.

Sloan Despeaux, professor, experiences a 3-D environment generated by the Mathematics and Computer Science Department’s new virtual reality equipment, while Geoff Goehle, seated, monitors.

“The system’s headset has two screens, one per eye, which allows the user to see and interact with a three-dimensional environment,” Goehle said. “The entire device uses more than 70 sensors including a MEMS gyroscope, accelerometer and laser position sensors to track the user’s motion as they move around a predefined area within that environment.”

Goehle and Erin McNelis, associate professor – among others – are using the VR system to create and deliver lessons in mathematics that will allow students to see and interact with three dimensional mathematical structures such as solids of revolution or 3-D surfaces. “These objects can typically only be represented in two dimensions,” Goehle said. “With the VR Lab, students will be able to experience them as if they were true 3-D objects.”

Others teaching in the department, including William Kreahling, associate professor, and Andrew Scott, assistant professor, are using the VR system to model and create visualizations for computer science concepts such as the runtime stack, the heap and objects. “The goal is to create a visual syntax for how these concepts interact with one another and to research its potential impact on computer science education,” Goehle said.

"There's a sine in the road up ahead." It's not the Twilight Zone; it's the lab's virtual reality device, which can display sines, cosines, tangents and much more complex concepts in 3-D, as well as the position of the user's controls in space.

“There’s a sine in the road up ahead.” It’s not the Twilight Zone; it’s the lab’s virtual reality device, which can display sines, cosines, tangents and much more complex concepts in 3-D, as well as the position of the user’s controls in space.

Goehle has compared the new system with others that are currently available, and says that the speed of tracking users’ movements and matching the virtual environment to them with very little lag gives it an advantage. “So far, nobody who’s used ours has felt nauseated,” he said.

The VR Lab in Stillwell 433 will be available to computer science students to use for their capstone/senior projects. It also will be available for students in participating math and computer science courses to complete virtual reality lessons.

For more information, contact Goehle at grgoehle@wcu.edu or Kreahling at wkreahling@wcu.edu.

By Keith Brenton

Categories | The Reporter


Photos | WCU News Services

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