Whole New Worlds

Ringling College Sees Limitless Possibilities in the Realm of Virtual Realities

VR’s value is enormous, from health care to tourism to the automotive industry to retail and more.

By Sarafina Murphy-Gibson December 31, 2019 Published in the January 2020 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Image: Shutterstock

In 2018, Ringling College of Art and Design pioneered a first-of-its-kind bachelor’s degree in Virtual Reality Development. Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation that gives the viewer an almost lifelike experience, such as walking on Mars, swimming with sharks or strolling through a new home that hasn’t been built yet. Users wear a headset and specialty gadgets, such as sensory tracking gloves, and enter a three-dimensional computer-generated environment of sight and sound. The video game industry has been one of the biggest users so far, but VR’s value is enormous, from health care to tourism to the automotive industry to retail and more. 

Academic Pursuits

During the four-year program, students begin with courses in drawing and 2D design before working their way through visual scripting, 3D modeling, concept development for virtual worlds and completing an extensive thesis project.

Creative Spaces

Each student’s desk has two screens, one that functions as a tactile drawing input and a secondary display monitor. The classroom also contains three virtual reality stations where students can test run the experiences they’re creating.

Reality Check

Eye- and mouth-tracking technologies are proving beneficial to public speakers. Wearing a device while practicing oration will provide feedback on how to improve eye contact, manage audience blind spots and track how many times messy filler words, such as “um,” are utilized.

Walk a Mile

Through the construction of virtual worlds, viewers can tour the Anne Frank House or spend time in someone else’s shoes. Stanford University’s “1000 Cut Journey” exposes participants to the insidious nature of casual racism through the life story of a black man.

For Your Health

Simulators are being developed that offer doctors an immersive education in anatomy or opportunities to practice delicate surgeries like knee replacements. Patients can also reap benefits such as personalized mental health treatments, heightened engagement for physical therapy and the option to tune into a virtual distraction during intimidating procedures.

Lens to the Past

Man’s earliest venture into virtual reality was the invention of the stereoscope by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. Custom cameras caught simultaneous right- and left-eye images that come to three-dimensional life when viewed through a special device. Stereoscopes provided an early opportunity to step into the lives of people from around the world.

Virtual Sarasota

Escape Reality Downtown offers more than 50 virtual reality experiences. Step into one of six full-motion VR stations to visit new destinations via Google Earth, fend off zombie hordes, experience flight or explore the ocean depths. Come as a group to try the immersive multi-player escape rooms. Located at 1900 Main St., Sarasota.

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