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February Newsletter

Data Visualization in Virtual Reality shows promise 

Visualization can reveal the knowledge hidden in data, but traditional 2-D and 3-D data visualizations are inadequate for large and complex data sets. Our solution is to visualize as many as 10 dimensions in VR/AR all via a Shared Virtual Office, which allows even untrained users to spot patterns in data that can give companies a competitive edge.

We are just at the early stages in understanding what kind of tools will prove useful in VR but this looks very promising. It feels super nerdy to say but being able to walk around a 3D scatter plot sounds exhilarating.


Super Bowl LI was the first Super Bowl you could watch in “VR”

The “get a big screen TV when you strap a small screen on your face” has gained some traction recently but I really wonder if it is a fad like the 3D TVs of the last few years. Same with the 360 live video cameras. Both have some utility and “oh, this is cool” moments but neither seems like virtual reality to me.

I’m more interested in the new recording technology that uses light field (depth + photographs) technology to recreate a place / event for you in VR. Imagine walking on the sideline at the Super Bowl as opposed to these pseudo-“VR” experience for Super Bowl LI.


Another Time Machine historical app announced – this one aimed at ancient Rome, Greece, and Jerusalem. 

 The new Lithodomos VR App will turn archaeological sites into completed visualizations of how they once appeared. Apps like it will not only impact tourism, but transform how we teach history and archaeology. The days of hand drawn renderings are coming to an end; students will explore deeply immersive environments depicting the past.

I think stating this app and others like it will transform how we teach history and archaeology is a bit of a stretch right now but the technology is looking more and more promising. Hope this app comes out on the Vive soon!


Virtual Reality in Education Lab of NYC develops 360 Experience to give educators a sense of what 360 videos/photos can offer. 

This experience is segmented into 3 “rounds” based on 3 different themes: (1) VR Experiences in Art, Museums and Cultural Sites, (2) VR and AR Experiences with the Human Self, and (3) VR Experiences in Storytelling, Journalism and Social Science. I highly recommend trying out this experience – if you need a Google Cardboard viewer, come by the CTLT in Boatwright library.


Unity releases new tool that let’s you create VR environments in VR 

Unity is, and has been, the ‘go-to’ tool for VR game / environment creation but, until now, development occurred on your basic PC and monitor. It makes sense that building in VR would be a natural development for the tool but this is exciting regardless. I wonder if it will reduce the learning curve for new developers? As an inexperienced developer, I hope so!

VR News and Notes

VR News and Notes

CTLT science liaison, Andrew Bell, leads the Center’s efforts in evaluating virtual and augmented reality technologies for teaching, learning and research at UR. Thanks to Andrew’s efforts, there is now a community of practice which includes interested individuals on campus eager to learn more about these emerging technologies. If you’re interested in joining the community, just e-mail Andrew. Latest VR@UR news:

  • Andrew has created an online VR@UR Newsletter that covers the developing landscape and culture surrounding VR/AR technologies. Check it monthly!
  • We have scheduled two VR Open Houses on Feb. 9th & 23rd 1-4pm. Come to our VR-HTC Vive portal in Jepson (next to the C&P lounge) to travel the world with Google Earth VR, paint a virtual masterpiece in Tilt-brush, or navigate through The Body in VR.
  • Register for a Pizza and Pedagogy that focuses on faculty/student discussion about their using VR technologies in the classroom and student research here at UR.
  • Request a demo or project using our VR technologies by sending e-mail to Andrew Bell.

VR Open House

Come join us!

The CTLT will be hosting a Virtual Reality Open House in the Jepson C&P room on February 9th and 23rd from 1-4 pm. All on campus (faculty, staff, & students!) interested in virtual or augmented reality are invited!

During this open house you’ll have the chance to interact with new VR technology that uses positional tracking (which basically means it knows where you are in space) to mimic your movements in the virtual world. Our positional tracking device is called the HTC Vive and using it really gives you a sense of how powerful VR can be.

We in the CTLT believe in exploring emerging technologies that can create new educational opportunities.  Positional tracking VR has the potential to pave many new avenues in learning and research here on campus. To help guide your journey, we’ve outlined a few different experiences to choose from.

Amulette (cinematic / storytelling)


  • Described as the first VR masterpiece, this animated tale gives you a taste of how virtual reality creates new storytelling challenges and opportunities.

Destinations (presence / social)


  • A promise of VR has always been to take you places you’ve never been. Destinations and are apps that push the envelop of imaging technology to take you to far off places and allow you to experience medieval churches or mountaintops from the comfort of Jepson Hall.
  • Destinations

Tilt Brush (Content Creation)


  • Technological advancements are so important to the educational landscape because they create new opportunities that were never before possible, opening new avenues for educations to guide their students down. Tilt Brush is an app that creates a completely new opportunity: to create in virtual space. You can create paintings, sketches, buildings, even volcanos and then walk around and interact with them.
  • Tilt Brush

Ping Pong (task simulation)


  • What’s the difference between a virtual experience and a real experience? As virtual experiences become more prevalent we must ask ourselves whats the difference between virtual and actual reality? Experience what virtual reality ping pong has to offer?
  • Paddle Up

The Lab (gaming: bow and arrow)


  • Let’s be honest, most content available on VR are games. This is probably one of the most fun. Protect your castle from stickman in this fantastic game from Valve.
  • The Lab

Engage (virtual classroom)


  • Have you ever been frustrated with the laws of nature when teaching in the classroom? Have you wanted to show a microscopic structure with your hands or demonstrate a dangerous interaction for your students? With virtual reality, there is potential to engage with your students in new ways. Just as a fair warning – this app is early in development but will give you a glimpse into the direction the field is going.

Hope to see you at the open house!

CTLT brings Audrey Watters to UR

CTLT brings Audrey Watters to UR

The CTLT was thrilled to welcome ed tech researcher/scholar/writer Audrey Watters to UR on Thursday, Feb. 2 for a day of discussion, public lecture with Q&A and reflection on topics and concerns related to data collection and education technology under a Trump administration. You can access Audrey’s lecture text on her Hack Education website.

The day started with a discussion group involving staff from UR, and we were excited to have attendees from Virginia Commonwealth University, Mary Washington University and Randolph Macon College as well. The discussion involved an exercise of identifying all the methods, tools, etc. that a university uses that collects data on students and employees. The list was quite staggering. Audrey challenged the group to ask the question “Why?” with regards to reasoning on why we collect such data, and why we keep it for so long (in some cases, indefinitely). Many left the discussion with wheels turning (a good thing)! A lunch discussion with Audrey and students followed, which engaged the questions concerning how much students actually know about what data is collected on them and what is done with it. Audrey’s lecture in the afternoon was steeped in the history of data collection, with an eery look back at IBM’s involvement with Hitler’s regime and its data collection practices. We finished the day with a faculty discussion with Audrey on similar topics and concluded the day with a nice reception.

Many thanks go to our social sciences liaison Ryan Brazell, who originally suggested Audrey’s visit to UR, and who also facilitated the day’s group discussions and lecture Q&A. Thanks also to U’s Catering and Events departments for their help in making the day a success!