Goldsmith virtual reality talk explores future of VR

Meara Isenberg

In an instant, business freshman Arooj Sheikh found herself transported from a classroom in the UT School of Architecture to the inside of an Austin condo.

The black virtual reality headset strapped to her face was the source of this new reality.

“I am very interested in innovation,” Sheikh said. “If this is the next big thing, I want to be a part of that.”

Sheikh had just attended the presentation “From Built to Virtual,” which discussed how virtual reality will affect our relationship to the built environment in 2030. The lecture on Wednesday evening was part of the Goldsmith Talks, a series of presentations organized by UT Architecture faculty, staff and students.

Radio-television-film lecturer Deepak Chetty showcased a virtual tour of Mars that he produced with students for the Washington Post. They contacted NASA for the terrain data that was used to construct their project.

Although he said the virtual reality experience did not rival that of a video game, what’s important is the real world data used to build the space to scale.

“The idea of scale is something that is hard to describe,” Chetty said. “When I think of the rover on the surface of Mars, I imagine it to be a remote controlled car, but in reality it is the size of a minivan.”

He said in addition to new virtual reality advancements moving forward, it is also important to look backward by using virtual reality as an archival tool for future generations.

“What really struck me is ­— in the future — what we can do with this kind of technology is provide these sort of experiences for people to better understand spaces that they may want to go to, may need to go to or could have missed,” Chetty said.

Today, School of Architecture researcher Rob Stepnoski sets his sights on Virtual Information Modeling, which allows for interactive information to be immersed into a virtual reality model.

Stepnoski said with this modeling, one can touch any surface and see the metadata and information related to that object and use that as an educational tool.

“(Virtual reality) is used in the hospital industry,” Stepnoski said. “Traditionally we would have to build an emergency room physically, which usually took around six weeks. Now, using VR, the doctors can walk around and literally put their hands out and say ‘this is in my proximity.’ They can touch on an object and get information and make sure it’s right.”