VR lab aims to make future accessible

By Koumae Adams, Staff Writer

The VR lab located in the Armory building on Thursday. It serves as a research and testing grounds for faculty and students curious in VR, catering to development, experience, as well as testing. (Michael Chew)

Located in the UI Armory, room 151A holds many tools of the future.

From virtual reality headsets that immerse participants into another world to a 3D printing machine, the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning’s virtual reality hub opens new doors of opportunities for many people.

Jamie Nelson, the assistant director of merging educational technology at the CITL, explained the benefits of the VR lab.

“One of the reasons here is just to give people exposure to new technologies and be thinking about the future,” Nelson said.

Nelson said utilizing the TechHub doesn’t require background knowledge.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

“People can come in without any knowledge of laser cutting or anything VR, and we walk the person through setting that stuff up,” Nelson said.

The lab is utilized by classes that focus on architecture, social work, art and fashion design to create a unique learning experience for students.

The lab has open hours on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays 1 to 4 p.m. Here, the TechHub provides an open space of technology and staff assistance for students.

Andrea Bautista, freshman in DGS and a staff member at the TechHub, expressed joy for the students who wander into the lab.

“I really like when people come in, and they get excited to see all of the machines because they’re like, ‘Wow! This space existed, like, this whole time? I didn’t even know about this,’” Bautista said.

The lab provides opportunities for students to use expensive technology without any charge.

“I feel like VR is not really accessible to everyone, so when you come into the space you’re like, ‘Wow, this is tech (that) I usually don’t have or see, but I could mess around,’” Bautista said.

Denise Carmona, senior in FAA and a staff member at the lab, said her interest in esports and gaming is what led her to join the lab.

“Essentially, I ended up working here because they needed someone to take care of open gaming hours, which goes on from Tuesdays and Thursdays from five to nine every week,” Carmona said.

Despite her personal interest in gaming and esports, Carmona said she enjoys everyone who comes in.

“I really love helping people learn laser cutting (and) 3D printing because when I started, I really struggled with that,” Carmona said. “But I feel like because I developed a skill, I want to give back that same knowledge to other people that come here for their classes.”

Nelson said one of the most inventive technology pieces in the lab is a mixed reality headset.

“So, virtual reality is where you’re closed off, and you only see (the) game world or whatever world,” Nelson said. “However, with this (mixed reality) headset, you can see the room and it scans the room. It knows where the ceilings, walls (and) floors are, depending on the app, you can put a bunch of TVs on the walls,” Nelson said.

Carmona said the lab is working to prepare students for the world.

“Right now, we’re working with Gies on having the skill training on how to interview, get a job and whatnot on how to get those soft skills,” she said. Carmona said she sees VR technology as having lots of potential.

“So, I think that there’s a lot of potential, especially VR and mixed reality, for people to learn a lot about, even if it feels like you’re in this virtual world,” Carmona said.

Bautista said the TechHub is a space for everyone.

“Anyone who comes in, you can find a way that it’ll work for you,” Bautista said. 


[email protected]