Virtual Reality (VR) has become increasingly relevant to academic environments thanks to the arrival of consumer grade and priced VR equipment. In 2015 the University of Adelaide Libraries were challenged to demonstrate innovative and relevant uses of this technology in a way which supported the University’s mission while also demonstrating opportunities for the Library. This pilot project existed as part of a greater movement driven by the University’s Technology Services division, and allowed an examination of how established groups could best exploit a technology on the very forefront of change.
To meet this goal a two phased project was proposed focusing on the rapid acquisition of VR production skills and the creation of a body of resources which could assist staff and students in the creation of content for this new media format. Using the freely available Unreal Engine (UE4) an experience was created which allowed users to view a fictional world which rendered the effects of Boolean searching on a range of objects.
Communications with academics, students and library staff throughout the project indicated that the University’s community is excited about VR but has a low awareness of how to apply VR to the academic environment.
This project exists within, and due to, the current upheaval within the library industry. The direction of the project and the decision to produce documentation supporting an unreleased product came from the idea of the academic library as a place that creates opportunities for self-directed clients, easing the process of learning and research.
The process highlighted the value of documentation designed to lower the initial barrier to entry for this rising technology. Following this pilot project the University Libraries will consider VR as a component of the 'Library of the Future’ and determine how best it may be utilized to meet our client needs.
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