In a Virtual World

How school, academic, and public libraries are testing virtual reality in their communities

Virtual Reality

 March 1, 2018, first appearing in American Libraries Magazine

In the past several years, virtual reality (VR) technology has finally begun to fulfill what had long been promised. Traditional VR, which creates environments that allow people to be “present” in an alternative environment, has been advanced by offerings from Oculus, Sony, Google, and Samsung. At the same time, products like Google’s Cardboard have led the growth of 360-degree video that captures an entire scene in which the viewer can look up, down, and around. Instead of just games and entertainment, VR content is exploding with news, information, and educational content.

Throughout this period of growth and expansion, libraries and librarians have once again demonstrated their adaptability to new information formats and user needs with moves that reflect the various directions VR has moved. Whether it is classroom use of Google Expeditions, new educational spaces and lending programs on academic campuses, or a demonstrated commitment to equitable access to this new technology in public libraries, librarians have taken on VR as a new way to engage their users.

In the months and years ahead, library professionals will likely need to consider how VR and 360-degree video fit into their commitments to acquire and organize information, make the informational content of this technology available for reference and citation, and empower users to be both media consumers and creators. For now, … libraries and librarians are showing how they can innovate with this latest trend in media and information.

Read on…

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To experience virtual reality at the Moline Public Library, stop by the second floor where we have a virtual tour of the new I74 river bridge!

Learn Your Library Resources – “I-74 River Bridge: A Virtual Experience”

The Moline Public Library is thrilled to be hosting the “I-74 River Bridge: A Virtual Experience,” a virtual reality tour of the new I-74 bridge, from Friday, February 16 through the end of May.

New I-74 Bridge

A rendering of the completed project. Photo: Iowa DOT

All are welcome to participate! Access to the virtual reality experience will be available on a first come, first serve basis from the time that the library opens at 9:00am to one half hour before closing (7:30pm Mon-Thur & 5:00pm Fri-Sat). Please stop by the second floor reference desk or call us at (309) 524-2470 with any questions or to get you started with your virtual experience.

A Unique, Immersive Experience

Inspired by cutting-edge virtual reality technology, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) partnered with Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation and the university’s Virtual Reality Applications Center to develop a fully immersive experience of the I-74 Mississippi River Bridge.

Imagine hopping into a car and driving across the new four-lane I-74 River Bridge, walking along the multi-use path and getting a gorgeous view of the Quad Cities from the scenic overlook, standing on top of the arch to get a bird’s-eye-view of the reconstructed interstate, or diving into the river to see the wildlife that is an essential part of the river’s ecosystem. Through creative collaboration, Iowa DOT and Iowa State University provide you with an unforgettable way to experience, engage with and explore the reconstruction of one of the most important regional interstate systems.

Once you put on the virtual reality headset, you’ll be able to “fly” through the corridor and explore the new I-74 River Bridge. The above video is a sample of what you’ll see. 

Diving into the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is full of wildlife, including species on the federal Threatened and Endangered Species list. The Iowa and Illinois departments of transportation led a large-scale mussel relocation as part of the I-74 River Bridge project and received an award from the Federal Highway Administration in 2017 for these efforts. Now, you will be able to “interact” with these mussel species and learn about their importance to the ecosystem. The virtual reality display takes the viewer into the river environment to “pick up” each mussel as a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist provides information about the species. Using virtual reality to present educational material related to the endangered mussels in the Mississippi River is an innovative and exciting way to learn about our environment.

Explore the Mississippi River under the bridge and “pick up” mussels to learn about each species.

Reshaping the Way We Learn

Virtual reality is a powerful tool to share information about infrastructure projects and natural resources. The intense, immersive virtual environment makes it possible for the Iowa DOT and other agencies to give you a more complete understanding of how infrastructure projects will look and interact with the surrounding environment. The I-74 virtual reality simulations use 3-D models developed by the Alfred Benesch & Co. engineering consultant team, and new 3-D content developed by the Iowa DOT’s Office of Bridges and Structures and Iowa State University. The I-74 virtual reality program was made possible through a variety of federal and state funds.

Originally published in River Action’s Eddy Magazine – February 2018.