We get our Taylorian, Bernice, to experience Taylor’s newly launched VORTEX Extended Reality Lab that consists of virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality! Read about her experience here!
The idea of bringing virtual reality (VR) into not only our gaming experience but also our daily lives has been all the craze since countless years ago. With Metaverse coming about to transition us into a new phase of modern technology, the endless possibilities it holds are now beginning to sprout.
With Taylor’s Future Movement in sight, I was given the lovely opportunity to take a trip to the newly established VORTEX Extended Reality Lab, VORTEX for short. VORTEX (Virtual Online Future Technology and Extended Reality) is an addition to Taylor’s Campus Facilities that has been in the works for over 4 months now. Its core purpose is to be able to elevate students’ learning experience to beyond what we’re currently comfortable with and to provide an immersive and interactive experience to education.
To find your way to the Taylor’s VORTEX XR Lab, head to the Ground Floor of Block E and look for a plain black door that is close to the staircase facing the lake. I got lost the first time around, so to make sure you’re in the right place, search for: a black door with slightly marbling patterns, and red and green lights above the door. Upon entering the lab, XR Specialist of the VORTEX XR Lab, Faisal Athar, gave me the pleasure of giving me a quick tour around the lab.
To be frank, I was astonished by the equipment and facilities they had built in the lab, and was excited to be able to test them out. I guess it’s safe to say I truly underestimated what to initially expect, and was only expecting to see simple VR systems like the Oculus Rift that was released a few years prior but there were more...
First off, was the XR stage. The XR Stage is an XR virtual production set that would basically place you (in the green screen room) in a real time 3D environment/virtual stage, where they’d be able to live stream or record footage. It has external sensors that are able to track your movements, and the camera would follow you around as you interact with the virtual space through the camera view.
The green screens in this lab are tailor made for these features, and your clothing colour wouldn’t affect it in any way. This facility in particular has the ability to provide broadcasting standard videos and footage, beneficial to students doing creative projects or filming of any kind.
Obviously, you’d be thinking: “That sounds like it’s going to take forever to edit with my laptop!” You’d be impressed to find out that the VORTEX XR Lab actually comes with high-end Dell workstations that gives you the ability to efficiently edit footage and work with real-time 3D rendering. The potential this lab has in terms of students utilising it for university assignments and productions — especially for the Mass Communication majors, is undoubtedly high.
They were tweaking some details to the XR stage when I visited, so I unfortunately didn’t get to try it out. However, Mr. Faisal did walk me through some of the work they’ve done with the stage, and the flexibility and space for creative exploration the XR stage could provide was quite vast. Out of 10, I’d rate this a solid 9, one point away just because I never got to try it (haha!).
Next in line is the HTC Vive Pro 2, in which it’s a virtual reality headset that comes with precise external trackers and high quality graphics. I was able to try this virtual reality headset, by playing an interactive zombie game (that had background sound effects playing from the headset), where I’d to kill zombies from all directions (360° degrees).
This was particularly interesting, as the more common commercialised virtual reality games that I’ve tried before could only play games up to 180 degrees! The in-game functions and gameplay was extremely detailed, having to manually reload your guns as you would with an actual gun, unlike most video games where all you’d have to do was click a button. There was zero lag while experiencing this VR headset, so that’s a big win!
This one was arguably my favourite one out of the facilities I tried (probably because I like video games). Definitely a 12/10 because I’d come back to the VORTEX Lab just for this.
The VORTEX XR Lab also has stand-alone based virtual reality, which was the Oculus Quest 2 (or Meta Quest 2), which doesn’t require an external sensor like the Vive Pro. It works similarly to the Vive Pro, just slightly slower in terms of tracking movement due to the lack of external sensors. However, you can basically carry it around like your Nintendo Switch.
The final thing I got to try out was the Microsoft HoloLens 2, which is a mixed reality device that’s able to implement virtual equipment into reality through the lenses. Imagine the scene in Iron Man where Tony Stark was able to have holographs indicating information whilst in battle, it’s exactly that! You’re able to freely do work with augmented information and videos.
I could look at human anatomy through the holographic image that I placed in front of me, and see things like the nervous system in extreme detail. In such a way, it provides a new perspective to collaborative learning, especially for specific topics such as medicine and engineering.
The portability of the Oculus Quest 2 was the biggest pros to it, plus it ran smoother than I expected it to. Unlike the Oculus Rift I tried back in 2016 during a technology fair, it was relatively refreshing to experience how far VR technology has evolved over the years.
The Microsoft HoloLens 2 would definitely transform the way boring book-based classes are taught with its holographic features, so it’s a 8/10 for both!
In hindsight, the experience I’d at the VORTEX VR Lab was eye-opening. With facilities you couldn’t possibly imagine a university campus could provide, Taylor’s decided to make it happen. I don’t want to sound like I’m constantly praising the VORTEX XR Lab (mainly because I went in with zero expectations), but they really delivered!
When visiting the VORTEX XR Lab, you should definitely accommodate more time to try out everything, and also just in case you get too caught up in a particular facility. The potential the VORTEX lab holds is countless, and I’m excited to see how the school and students will implement this into our learning experience.
Bernice Lee is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Mass Communication (HONS) at Taylor's University Lakeside Campus. As of recent, her days are filled with loud music and busy schedules, contributing much of her time to Taylor’s Music Club as President for 2022/23. She is also a hunter of the creative arts, aiming her arrow at dance, photography, craft, and anything that speaks to her soul.
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