Harrisburg University’s Virtusphere has potential for experimentation, education and revenue

[From PennLive, where the story also features a 1:14 minute video]

[Image: Harrisburg University senior Todd Baker prepares to try the Virtusphere, a virtual reality device, for the first time. Students are working with companies to create virtual worlds for real life training. Credit: Christine Baker, The Patriot-News]

Harrisburg University’s Virtusphere has potential for experimentation, education and revenue

March 08, 2011
By Kourtney Geers, The Patriot-News

Crawl inside this 10-foot human hamster ball and you’ll be able to go just about anywhere.

The ball, called a Virtusphere, allows the person inside to wander around unhindered, exploring virtual environments seen through a wireless headset. It’s the latest technological investment made by Harrisburg University.

The sphere made its first appearance at the science and technology school in downtown Harrisburg in June at the Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum, where leaders in the industry of cutting-edge technology met to show off their latest developments.

The sphere was a popular feature as students and forum attendees were allowed to explore virtual environments inside. At that point, a Virtusphere was being used by the U.S. military for training, and two were set up for entertainment purposes at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Soon after, the school began conversations with the inventor, Nurulla Latypov, to bring a Virtusphere to Harrisburg.

The university’s sphere is the only one in Pennsylvania. Students can use the sphere for fun: to explore a virtual representation of Moscow or play a shooting game.

But the state-of-the art simulation platform has endless possibilities as students work to develop virtual worlds to be explored on campus and off, said Charles Palmer, executive director of the school’s Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies, said.

“For example, an anatomy class could have a test by asking a student to make their way from the femoral artery to the heart in the virtual world,” he said.

Undergraduate student Todd Baker plans to use the Virtusphere to develop a robot that can be controlled by a person in the sphere for his senior project.

“Let’s say, for instance, Three Mile Island had an accident. Someone could use one of these to drive a robot from anywhere, even Washington, D.C., for instance. They wouldn’t have to put any humans in danger, and you would still be able to handle the situation,” Baker said.

The Virtusphere also has the potential turn a profit for the school if students and staff are able to develop and sell more functions.

Eric Darr, executive vice president of Harrisburg University, said the school has been in contact with businesses and organizations in the community, pitching ideas for practical uses of the sphere. So far, the school has spoken with The Hershey Co., the U.S. Army War College and The National Civil War Museum. They also have plans to speak with NASA.

“Anything that is spatial and could be explored is a possibility,” said Andy Petroski, director of learning technologies. “You could bring historic sites alive and essentially build battlefields and towns as they once were in their prime to make a snapshot of the past.”

Work developing virtual worlds for insurance companies looks to be the most promising venture, Petroski said. “This provides them with the opportunity to really be able to walk through all kinds of different claims scenarios from building structures to hurricanes and floods,” he said.

Darr said that developing revenue from partnerships would be a benefit for the school, but having a new frontier for the school’s students to explore and learn from was one of the main reasons for the investment.

“Not only is this educational, it also serves as an opportunity for the university to develop revenue and an opportunity for us to form new relationships in the community,” Darr said. “It’s relatively new, and we’re still in the process of developing just what we will be able to do. At this point, we haven’t even scratched the surface of its potential.”

This entry was posted in Presence in the News. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Find Researchers

    Use the links below to find researchers listed alphabetically by the first letter of their last name.

    A | B | C | D | E | F| G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

css.php