The Virtual Environments Studio in Newman Library began as a single room and introductory space for patrons to experience first-hand this emerging technology. Now, the studio features three rooms including a computer lab with machines that patrons can use that are powerful and contain high-end software for immersive environments research and development. In the studio’s advanced research space, the community can access 360 cameras, PC connected and standalone headsets, and devices such as motion capture and volumetric capture systems. The space also houses the applied research in immersive experiences and simulations (ARIES) program, which gives students the opportunity for paid work on collaborative immersive environment projects with external partners.

Most recent upgrades to the space include a 16 camera Optitrack motion capture system to enable multiple actor capture and a 10 camera volumetric capture system, which will allow for real-time streaming of a 3D environment.

A small cube with a large embedded lens mounted to a rail.
Optitrack motion capture cameras surround the recording space. Photo by Chase Parker.

“Volumetric capture is a fairly cutting-edge technology right now, so by offering it to students we hope to get them experience with technology that will make them very desirable on the job market,” said Jonathan Bradley, assistant director of learning environments and innovative technologies. “We also hope that faculty can benefit from access to technology that allows them to do new innovative research without building and maintaining a complicated and costly system themselves.”

A student employee wearing a mixed reality headset that has multiple small lenses protruding from the faceplate.
Atlas Vernier demos the new XR headset. Photo by Chase Parker.

The space also offers a Varjo XR-3 headset, one of the most advanced XR headsets on the market, which allows for more advanced eye-tracking and augmented reality pass-through than exists on current consumer-grade headsets. 

“The Varjo XR-3 is an enterprise headset with many advanced features that you cannot find on consumer-grade headsets, and its presence in the studio not only gives students and faculty a chance to perform research that might not be possible with other headsets, but also gives our students direct experience with a headset that is often used by large enterprises in technology fields.”

Because the University Libraries offers emerging technologies to all patrons, this studio gives students and faculty an opportunity to explore the systems with library experts and push its limits in research and discovery.