Virtual Reality in Libraries

Virtual Reality in Libraries

Breanne Kirsch (Briar Cliff University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4742-7.ch010
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Librarians are beginning to offer virtual reality (VR) services in libraries. This chapter reviews how libraries are currently using virtual reality for both consumption and creation purposes. Virtual reality tools will be compared and contrasted, and recommendations will be given for purchasing and circulating headsets and VR equipment. Google Tour Creator and a smartphone or 360-degree camera can be used to create a virtual tour of the library and other virtual reality content. These new library services will be discussed along with practical advice and best practices for incorporating virtual reality into the library for instructional and entertainment purposes.
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Virtual Reality

Science fiction has provided us with many of the technologies people have access to today. This is true with virtual and augmented reality as well. The View-Master helped make 3D images popular and helped seed the idea of virtual reality. In the 1940s, the United States military used View-Masters for training during World War II (Sell, Sell, & Van Pelt, 2007). Ray Bradbury wrote about a nursery in “The Veldt” in 1950, which displayed immersive, sentient computer simulations. In the 1980s, the first virtual reality prototypes were created for flight simulators and training (Rheingold, 1991, p. 128).

The modern idea of virtual reality became popular in the 1980s when Star Trek: The Next Generation depicted virtual reality in the holodeck and The Lawnmower Man written by Stephen King and turned into a film in 1992 depicted virtual reality being used to improve cognition in an experiment. Star Trek’s holodeck allowed people to become immersed in a virtual environment and interact with characters and objects that appeared real. In the ‘90s, the first virtual reality headsets were created, such as the Sega VR headset. In 1991, the Cave automatic virtual environment (CAVE) was created and compared to Star Trek’s holodeck (Goad, 2016). These early virtual reality headsets did not become popular and were mainly used by gamers or for simulations.

Then in 2012, the Oculus Kickstarter campaign began to fund the development of the Oculus Rift and Oculus was purchased by Facebook in 2014 (“Oculus Rift,” 2012). In 2014, the PlayStation VR was announced, and the HTC Vive and Google Cardboard announcements closely followed in 2015. During 2016, hundreds of companies began developing VR headsets and related products and since then, many more VR products have become available. The HTC Vive was the first major commercially released VR headset in 2016 (Dredge, 2016). Jumping ahead to 2018, the Oculus Go was released as the first standalone VR headset commercially available (Porges, 2018) and in 2019, the Oculus Quest was released (Porges, 2019).

Virtual reality has come full circle with the Oculus Quest providing a holodeck like experience (Porges, 2019) and the VR game, Star Trek: Bridge Crew immerses the player in the Star Trek universe. Star Trek: Bridge Crew can be played on several VR headsets, including the Oculus Quest. This rapid availability of standalone VR headsets is moving VR from an emerging technology towards a mainstream technology. Augmented reality is being developed for improving shopping, indoor navigation, and driving functionality (Makarov, 2020). While extended reality and VR, specifically is still relatively new to many people, it seems that it will likely become more mainstream in the next several years and educators and librarians should take note of this trend and consider ways VR can be used in education and libraries.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Google VR Tour Creator: Software or app used to create 360-degree virtual tours viewable over the Internet or in virtual reality.

Unreal Engine: Another software used to create interactive virtual reality content.

HTC VIVE: A robust, permanent virtual reality headset.

Sony Playstation VR: Another virtual reality headset that requires Playstation 4 to function. Focused on high-quality games for entertainment purposes rather than educational experiences.

Unity: Software used to create interactive virtual reality content.

Virtual Reality Headsets: Allows a person to be virtually immersed in 360-degree experiences and games.

Virtual Reality: Immersive technology that requires the use of a headset to view 360-degree images, videos, experiences, and games.

Google Cardboard: Cheapest virtual reality headset option that requires a smartphone to function. Lower-quality than other virtual reality headsets.

Oculus: A company that creates virtual reality headsets from the highly mobile Oculus Go or Quest to the permanent Oculus Rift headset.

360-Degree: Technology modality in three dimensions allowing participants to feel immersed in a virtual environment.

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