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Public sees reality of IPFW research

February 20th, 2017

By Steve Warden | The Journal Gazette

Shortly after 10-year-old Allison McCullom slipped on a pair of virtual reality goggles, all of her words required exclamation marks.

“Cooooool!” she shouted as her head moved back and forth. “Oh my gosh! How cooooool!”

She saw dolphins and sea turtles and various fish, oh my! But what excited young Allison was that she could almost reach out and touch them. “That was awesome!” she said.

When it came for the next boy in line’s turn, his response was much the same: “Wowwww!”

The line of children, and some adults, was proof that the virtual reality demonstration was one of the must-see stops Saturday during the IPFW Sponsorship Day at Science Central.

“We have faculty and undergraduate students who present hands-on activities,” said Dr. Connie Kracher, director of the Institute for Research at IPFW. “Bringing our research to the community. That’s important.”

Kracher said that an estimated 40 faculty members and students participated in the event that attracted more than 1,000 visitors who were admitted free into Science Central.

Some of the nation’s most prestigious funding organizations – National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Program, United States Department of Agriculture, NASA, the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, just as examples – have funded faculty and student research at IPFW.

While Allison and others experienced a simulated 3-D environment, a second virtual reality station demonstrated a project on which computer science major Cameron Meyers has been working.

“We’ve been building a virtual reality library system,” said Meyers. “We can populate bookshelves with various books. You can search for books from a vast library, pull a book off the shelf, turn pages, close it, all through virtual reality.”

What is the future of virtual reality?

“It really depends,” said Meyers. “Right now it’s split between two environments. One being more developmental looking for singular business applications, and one more based on play, things like old arcade games from the 1980s. ... That’s what a lot of people are interested in.”

Meyers said he has been at his post most of the day, and didn’t venture off to closely examine physics demonstrations and other available studies of the IPFW Sponsorship Day. 

“I’ve been told by others that we’re pretty popular,” he said.