By Vincent L’Hommedieu
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A new virtual and augmented reality lab has been installed in the refurbished Distance Learning Center over the summer to enhance students’ learning environment. The equipment was donated by Global Foundries and ZSpace last summer, after Dr. Greco and Mr. L’Hommedieu researched options and met with these companies about acquiring the technology.
“My role was researching the idea of augmented and virtual reality and how it could be integrated into teaching,” Mr. L’Hommedieu said. L’Hommedieu and Greco met with Global Foundries and ZSpace for demonstrations on the technology from both companies.
For virtual reality, students can go back to any time period and experience historical sights and wars of yesteryear, including the earth a billion years ago. The Oculus Rift, a headset necessary for virtual reality and donated by Global Foundries, works with several downloadable programs.
Dr. Greco, a driving force behind the new program, said, “Virtual reality is being fully immersed in that world.” He explained that augmented reality is “being in the room [and seeing people] but images are put on a screen.”
The application of augmented reality is highly beneficial in helping students examine and dissect objects that aren’t readily available or accessible. “Instead of having the students try to visualize a cell or show parts of the body [in 2D], students will be able to manipulate the human body with augmented reality,” biology teacher Mrs. Preston said.
Greco, eager to have kids utilizing the new tech, said, “Hopefully some students will want to make AR/VR a career out of producing content [for the augmented and virtual reality after using the technology]. Global Foundries doesn’t have programmers to build content for augmented and virtual reality. Global Foundries is investing tons of money into augmented and virtual reality training,” For example, this virtual and augmented reality equipment trains medical students to perform surgery on a virtual body, rather than on an actual body. Augmented reality training helps save money that would be used to pay repair costs, insurance costs if someone was injured while training for a job, and travel costs. The new technology must also acclimate employees to their tasks before they join the workforce and perform their assigned duties.