September 28, 2017 -- NORMAN – The University of Oklahoma Libraries is pleased to announce that they've conducted what is believed to be the first multi-state, multi-campus, curated virtual reality class. The Innovation @ the Edge, located in the University of Oklahoma Libraries, is a pioneer in developing pedagogical and research content for virtual reality headsets. (The Innovation @ the Edge was recently recognized by Campus Technology as an ‘Education Futurist' award winner, one of only two in the country). During this VR class, partner institutions, including two separate physical locations at University of Central Oklahoma, Archaeology Southwest and University of Arizona, Tucson (both in Arizona) and two separate physical locations at the University of Oklahoma along with a session leader in a home office, connected in shared virtual reality space, bringing together 15 people total in order to tour a cave with rare archaic cave art that is located on private land and is otherwise inaccessible to the public.
Doug Gann, Preservation Archaeologist and Digital Media Specialist of Archaeology Southwest, located in Tucson, Arizona, was granted permission by the private owner of the cave to have one of his team members enter this very fragile cave and take over 700 pictures. These pictures were loaded and using photogrammetry, a technique of 3D model creation that combines the information from two-dimensional digital images to produce three-dimensional data points resulting in highly detailed physical structures and textures, which are then used to make a virtual reality experience that essentially duplicates physically touring the cave. By creating this 3D model, the details of the cave's surface, including a number of ancient stone engravings, could be analyzed in ways that are otherwise impossible including such means as digitally adjusting the cave's lighting or zooming in on the cave's walls.
One archaeology student, after experiencing the class, noted that they would like to now do their thesis using virtual reality in this kind of work. Doug Gann, noted that while enhancements are needed, he was "completely blown away by how well the system works and is now looking forward to future developments."
"The OU Libraries is continuing to earn the designation of "Education Futurist," said Carl Grant associate dean of libraries and chief technology officer. "Our team is helping to show how the future of education might be reshaped using these exciting new technologies. We have follow-up events planned, which will feature a range of unique content, along with experts from universities nationwide. We are eager to move the adoption of this technology forward in classroom and research settings across the country."
The University of Oklahoma Libraries is the largest research library in Oklahoma, containing more than 6 million volumes and over 4 million other digital and physical resources. The library system consists of the Bizzell Memorial Library, the Library Service Center, and branch libraries for fine arts, architecture, engineering and geology. OU Libraries is the intellectual crossroads of the university, representing the collective knowledge of the university and providing research and study assistance to facilitate knowledge creation.