Use Of Virtual Reality To Experience UC's 200-Year History Is 'Incredibly Enjoyable'

Jan 21, 2019

The University of Cincinnati is looking forward as it celebrates its 200th birthday with virtual reality (VR) vignettes. Five real-life experiences are designed to transport the users to important times in the school's history, including drug discovery and civil rights advancements.

Legacy Committee Co-Chair Richard Harknett wanted something to remember the university's bicentennial other than a plaque or a bench. He describes the VR vignettes as a crazy idea out of his head. "We suggested, 'It is the 21st century, why don't we do this with a 21st century context?' " he recounts. "And the virtual reality idea was born."

The vignettes were rolled out Jan. 15 at the College of Medicine. "I was a guinea pig for an early version of it and I will tell you it was incredibly enjoyable," President Neville Pinto announced. 

Here's what users will see:

Diversity and Inclusion

An Ecosystem of Inclusion - UC alumna Marian Spencer shares her experience as a young black student at a still-segregated campus in 1939. The VR user helps construct an exhibit that recalls the university's civil rights history and "commemorates the struggle to create a modern ecosystem of equity and inclusion in 2019 and beyond."

Bearcat Spirit 

The user becomes the Bearcat in the fall of 1924 when Nippert Stadium was dedicated. The experience includes pumping up the crowd.

The Cutting Edge 

Assist Albert Sabin in 1959 in his UC lab as he invents the polio vaccine, including identifying the polio virus through a microscope, looking at his notes and preparing sugar cubes during vaccination events with children.

Campus On The Move 

Users can compare what the campus used to look like to what it looks like now, celebrating the different styles and architectures through the ages.

Living, Learning, Leading 

In this scenario, users become students at UC in 1819, in 1919 and in 2019. See the evolution of teaching and classroom technologies from chalkboards to tablets as well as changes in the composition of the student body.

All the work for the VR vignettes was done in-house, led by Chris Collins, manager for UC's Center for Simulations and Virtual Environments Research.

VR booths are located in Tangeman University Center, University Pavilion and CARE/Crawley through November. A mobile unit will travel to UC Blue Ash (February-March), the Campus Recreation Center (April-May), and UC Clermont (September-October).

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