Students try out new virtual reality gear


Jeff LamsonGeneral Assignment Reporter

Whales, zombies and dragons were spotted in Adanti Student Center as students and some brave faculty members experienced the virtual reality world brought to Southern by UNIVRSE. Running two HTC Vive VR headsets, those in attendance were able to play game demos and VR experiences in front of the Ballroom in ASC last Thursday.

Daphney Alston, assistant director of clubs and organizations in the Office of Student Involvement, discovered UNIVRSE from their participation in a Network and Chill event that took place in Hartford in October 2017. According to Alston, she witnessed the young professionals from the area posting their VR experiences online and generally having a good time.

Alston then contacted Earl Stallings and made arrangements for the demo at Southern. On UNIVRSE’s website they describe themselves as, “Connecticut and Massachusetts premier virtual reality destination.” Through what they call a VRNITEOUT, they can provide between one and three Vive headsets to entertain parties and all sorts of social gatherings in groups more than 20 people.

UNIVRSE also provides a 50-inch TV so that those not wearing the headset can see what the player sees. This turns the VR experience into a much more social affair. On Thursday, some students were seen encouraging and giving advice to those in the VR headsets.

Originally planned for Wednesday, fear of snow convinced Alston to reschedule to the same time as the Commuter Luncheon which she admitted might have increased turnout. “I think it was a happy coincidence,” Alston said.

Some students came back to try more than one of the demos and others played the same one more than once. One of the latter is freshman English major, Sophia Oneto. Oneto says she was drawn to the Commuter Luncheon and VR Experience by a general interest in video games. While Oneto says VR is an, “awesome concept,” she also says that she is not yet sold on it, adding, “I feel like the technology still has a few bugs to work out.”

Oneto said that some of the problems like not really being able to move but instead to stay stable or in the case of the bow and arrow game that she played, “teleport,” to different locations by shooting highlighted areas with the arrows.

There were also some technical difficulties with too much sunlight getting into the sensors on the controllers; because of this, the curtains to the room had to be drawn closed.

Both Alston and Oneto said that after what was their first experience with VR, they re open to trying out some more of what VR has to offer. According to Alston, UNIVRSE’s VR Experience might return: “I think this would be a good thing to bring back to campus.” Alston noted that the event was easy to organize logistically and that UNIVRSE offered a, “great price.”

Alston also says that the goal of having between 20 to 25 students attend the VR Experience was successful and that in the future more events that can be experienced by one person in ten minutes or so might be paired with commuter events.

Photo Credit: Melanie Espinal

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