Rise & Shine 1:08: Virtual Reality - More Than Fun and Games
>> Britt Daehnke: Good morning. Welcome to Penn State Behrend's Rise and Shine webinar- Virtual Reality: More Than Fun and Games. I am Britt Daehnke, associate director of Development and Alumni Relations with Penn State Behrend and today's moderator. I'd like to welcome Dr. Christopher Shelton, assistant professor of clinical psychology. As part of his research and service endeavors at Penn State Behrend, he founded and serves as the director of the Virtual Augmented Reality Lab.
Chris earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wyoming. Prior to which, he completed his undergraduate and graduate schooling and spent two years working as a research assistant at the Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault. His research interests include ADHD, sluggish cognitive tempo, emerging adulthood, digital mental health, and internet-based interventions. All of which he hopes to incorporate into his work at the VAR lab. Welcome Chris! >> Dr. Christopher Shelton: Hello, thank you for having me today!
Let me go ahead and start my slides. Alright so I have with me today, one of my awesome student research assistants. Her name is Erica Juriasingani and she's going to be doing some of this talk with me, and also showing you around our lab. Without further ado, I will jump into it. There we go. So, I wanted to start just by briefly touching on who we are.
We are a fairly new lab here at Behrend. In fact, we started midway through 2019. And so, we were a little ways in before we shut down due to COVID and everything gone remote. But, in that time, I'm really proud of what we've done- what the students especially, have done, and how much we've grown as a lab and grown in our partnerships with the community. I guess that's probably one of the biggest things to point out is, when I was asked to do this- when we talk about virtual and augmented reality and immersive experiences, and I'll go into more in a second on what that looks like, it's such a broad realm that it's really hard to kind of tie into such a short time “what we're doing”. I'm going over things today in a very broad overview sense to try and give you an idea of the scope and range of things we're working on, but it definitely doesn't touch on everything.
So, feel free to check out our website or contact me or any of the student researchers or a faculty affiliate for more information. We are happy to go into more detail on any of the things we're doing. Currently we are located- we are a physical entity; we are located over in the Knowledge Park center. In fact, we are in the Merwin Building. Our objective is to be a forward-facing unit of the college here, meaning that businesses and individuals in the community can come in and work with us in person. Right now, we have a VR/AR setup space with big wide-open areas for us to utilize these headsets, but we also are in the process of building a 3D and Lidar scanning, as well as photogrammatic, studio down in the high bay of the Merwyn building, so that will have that as well.
And all those features will be available to the public at large or anyone within Penn State to come and utilize and work with us once the pandemic restrictions ease up. Erica, do you want to turn on the camera? I'll give you guys a quick idea of what our lab here looks like. It's a little bit sparse because, as you might imagine with the pandemic, we've tried to shift as much as we could remote, so a lot of the equipment is at home with our student researchers right now, but it should give you an idea..
>> Erica Juriasingani: So, let me get on here and hopefully, it works good. Perfect! So, this is an overview of our space here. Let’s see if I can get this remote working here. So, you see the little sitting area- Hi. Up on the wall over there we have our set-up for the headsets, the computers, all of our main action takes place over on that wall. Then we have a nice little creative area, a table that holds a lot of the sanitation and our clean box.
>> Shelton: Do you mind telling them about that real quick? >> Juriasingani: Oh yeah, so our clean box is a new addition to the lab. We got it over this summer. What it does- it was extremely important to get, especially when COVID hit- it helps to keep our headsets and our equipment that we use, clean. It sanitizes within under a minute and blows all the dirt, the grime, all of that out. So, that's a very important addition to our lab. So, that's just a quick overview of our space.
We’ve got some office areas on the side over there. But yeah, this is our little space, it's not too much to look at, but when you get down to the nitty gritty of what we actually do, it's a perfect space for what we need it for. >> Shelton: Thank you, Erica. Let me go ahead and re-share this.
So, some of the things we work with are- there we go, I think we skipped one. So, our mission very broadly put, is we are a student and community-oriented research lab and we're focused on four very broad areas. So, essentially it boils down to education, preservation, mental health, and the workplace. And, we'll talk a little bit about some of the projects in each of these four areas as we go through our presentation today.
Some of the technologies that we work with and that I refer to when I say things like, immersive experiences, it can be a mix, a modge podge of any of these technologies. So, things like virtual and augmented reality, or Lidar, 3D scanning, and photogrammatic photography to create 3D models. There's also 3D video, which is similar, but a little bit different than 360-degree video, wherein the 3D video actually adds the sense of stereoscopic depth to the images. We also have aerial videos, aerial drones to work with to create aerial videography and imagery.
A really interesting one at the end there is our spatial audio, which is something that you're likely to start hearing about in the near future. It's becoming pretty popular in terms of the audio headsets that are coming out. In terms of gaming applications, and what it refers to is essentially, it's almost like surround sound on a set of headphones wherein you can really place where the audio is coming from. It's not just coming out of both ears at the same depth. You can hear- it sounds like somebody's whispering in your right ear or somebody's yelling from 40-feet away in your left ear.
So, it offers a lot of potential for immersion, or added immersion. So, we work with all of these technologies, and we'll discuss some of them here today. So, to start, our work on campus- we do a lot of work within the Penn State system and in particular within the Behrend System. One of our projects currently is the immersive Behrend History Project. This is some work that's being sponsored by Hammermill and Dr. John Lilley, to provide a sense of history of Behrend- of early Behrend.
Both when the Behrends owned the property prior to becoming a college, and then the early college history here. What I really like about this is, I think it will help to connect our students to the campus, right? Often our students come, but they don't really feel a part, or a sense of home here. I'm always surprised how many go through their time here without realizing all of our amazing features, you know. There are students that don't realize we have a Gorge, or all of the beautiful hiking trails we have even away from the Gorge out by Knowledge Park. And so, the idea for us is to create an app that students can use- or maybe it can even be shared on like, the walking tours that we do with potential students that really kind of focuses on a different part of the history of Behrend.
And, really through narration and augmented reality brings into current what was past history. So, for instance, we have a number of images from prior to Behrend becoming a campus that we are looking to clean up and utilize so that we can get a split perspective over, as you can see in this picture, an example of what it used to look like versus what it looks like currently. The campus grounds have undergone a pretty extensive change.
And we also- one of the neat things is, we have a lot of family photos. We have a lot of silent films that are almost 100 years old from the Behrends. And some of our buildings are even named, like Bruno's right, they're iconic features of the campus. And so our thought is, let's bring those things to life, and how cool would it be if we can have Bruno running around campus in AR while you're using the app, like Pokémon Go, but you're seeing these old silent films superimposed over current history while they are our current settings, while there might be narration in the back explaining more about what was going on back in, you know the 1930s and the 1920s when this was still the Behrends' property and not a college.
You can see here just a quick clip. This is some of the silent footage that we are working through and trying to figure out what is there and figure out how best to clean it up. So, imagining that we isolate these dogs, and we can put them and other elements right in front of buildings.
Like, that's Turnbull. And, here we have Mary Behrend and some of the pups coming out of Glenhill, which is still there. But a lot of these tree features and stuff are no longer there. So, interspersing some of the old history with new like the gardens that Mary built, just to provide a sense of history and a connection to the campus for the students.
We also plan to do a number of Lidar scans with this project and so, to quickly explain what that is- this is one of our student researchers, Hudson, he's going to tell you guys about our Lidar work. >> Hudson Tran, Student Researcher (Video): What Lidar was without it already existing, I wouldn't have believed it was possible. Light detection and ranging, is the process of shooting out lasers and measuring how long it takes for that laser to bounce off a surface and come back to the Lidar Unit. From these measurements, the scanner is able to determine how far away a point on the surface is. If you measure 1,000,000 different points of a surface you can create a point cloud, essentially a cluster of points, so tightly grouped that it resembles the surface. Doing multiple scans allows you to create accurate 3D renders of that environment or object that you can now view in 3D software, or virtual reality.
Everything in the scan is spatially accurate down to plus or -1 millimeter in the case of our viral focus 70. So, you can go into your software and select two points and it will tell you the distance between the two. Lidar has a lot of applications and one of our goals is to use this new technology to demonstrate what is possible. >> Shelton: So, this is just a quick explanation of kind of how the Lidar works, how our system works. And, so some of the things we're doing with Lidar is historic preservation of buildings, of different features around campus, around the community, around this regional area. Uh, for instance on campus here, a number of our buildings are either being demolished or renovated, but they hold a deep sense of history to Behrend.
One of those is the Federal Building, so we've done some scans of the Federal Building to preserve that, prior to it being demolished. So, the Federal Building- this was us out there scanning and these are some of the composite Lidar scans. And all of this is, able to be seen at a great deal. Right now, this is still being processed so you can see through it.
We've used a little bit of opacity in our imagery here so that you can see that, you know, we can really find any angle. We can measure the angles, we can look at some of the woodworking in the trim and try and recreate that, if there was a desire to do that. So, it really accurately, with high fidelity, captures both the spatial dimensions as well as the imagery of these houses.
This is another part of one of the scans. It's a little bit lower- or the opacity and transparency is turned down a little bit more so that it seems more photo realistic here, but again, this is all just Point Cloud dense scans. We also plan to do- we've done it with the Nittany Lion, to make that available. We anticipate doing this with Erie Hall before it is demolished, and the Mary Behrend Memorial, as well, is another one that we looked to do. Moving on, some of the other work on campus that we do with immersive experiences, we have a number of projects going on that involve the Wintergreen Gorge and campus tours.
There is a big focus on Wintergreen and accessibility, and we would like to make these trails, especially the non-paved parts, more accessible to the Erie Community and those that don't have the ability to travel down these trails. And so, some of the things we're doing is creating, you know, guided walks down these trails with 360 and 3D video and, right now I can show you some of the footage, but it's still early in the stages. Unfortunately, we're not in the nicest weather right now to show all the bright vibrant greens and colors that we would see normally. It appears that the video doesn't want to play. (Video) So this is- excuse the connection, I think it's got some connection issues. This is one of the Wintergreen Gorge test shoots that we did.
Alright, let's try that one more time. I apologize guys, apparently I'm having some connection issues. OK, so this is one of the videos. You can see that when it's used on an app on your smartphone or on a tablet, you can drag and drop with your finger and move around. From the computer you can do it as well with your mouse and keyboard, but it allows you to get much more immersive video.
So, imagine this walking down a trail, you can look any direction you want and you add in spatial audio when we go near some of the waterfalls in the Gorge and you turn around, you'll hear that audio turn with you so that it's always in the direction of wherever the waterfall is spatially oriented to you. So, if you look away from the waterfall, it'll start coming behind you versus if you're looking towards it, it'll sound like it's coming in front of you to really add a sense of immersion. The idea though would be to capture some of these scenes and provide some of these walkthroughs. We're also using some of our 360 video and imagery equipment such as the Insta 360 Pro 2 to create 360 videos and images for a digital tour of campus. That's being put together by one of my RA’s Marcus Jacobs, who's working on that currently. So those are some of the things we're doing on campus.
Jumping ahead here for the sake of time, we are doing a number of things within mental health as well. As I'm sure many are aware, there is a mental health crisis going on, but even predating the pandemic, there has been a mental health crisis in this country. It's very simply put, our resources are not sufficient for the need that there is within our country. And so I like to call it the 4 A's, which are- we have a number of implementation issues, so availability of treatment, accessibility of treatment, whether these treatments that we're making available are acceptable to the population, and whether they're affordable.
We have issues spanning all four of these for many different treatments within this country, and so by utilizing- my hope is utilizing digital mental health mechanisms here in the lab, we can start to remove or help to play a role in reducing some of the issues caused by these 4 A’s, whether it be through availability or accessibility and affordability. These are factors that can really be addressed quite well using digital means. So, some of the things we're looking at include things like an internet-based intervention focused on college students with ADHD, immersive mental health experiences, such as like visual mindfulness videos and we'll actually show you some of the test videos and pilot data we've done on that here.
Another one that I'm going to turn over to Erica here to explain to you guys is an app that we put together with- it was put together and driven by Innovation Commons, another program here on campus. Our role from the lab and myself and my grad student was focused on providing the mental health content for the app. And so, with that I'll turn it over to Erica. >> Juriasingani: Hi guys, I am Erica and so what I'm going to start diving into is the app that VAR lab had their hands in, in creating.
So jumping ahead- our app is Serene. And I just want to establish something, that I worked on the UX/UI version or portion of this app. I wasn't actually attached to VAR lab for that portion. But, our grad student Antigoni, she was actually largely the brains behind all of this for content-wise, with VAR lab. So, I will be speaking about it, but I didn't- I wasn't with VAR lab on that portion, if that makes sense.
So, this is just a few screenshots of our app. It is available for download on the Google Play store. Only on Android as of right now, we do plan to move forward and have it as an iOS version as well. Right now, it is available on iOS through a web version.
So, what happened with Serene? How this came to be is, about a year ago now, when COVID came to hit, as Dr. Shelton mentioned, there was a mental health crisis and it just really increased with quarantine. So, a group of students and professors here at Behrend, we all got together and we decided to create Serene. And these are interfaces we have; we can learn about stuff within the app.
So, Antigoni put together several articles about things addressing emotions, mental health issues, as well as educating individuals about COVID-19. She also put together a long, long list of activities. So, if you go if you click into that interface there, you will see all kinds of different things from stuff to do outside, to pen and paper, to organizing things. It's a very long list that's very helpful if you're just sitting in the house bored and you're just like “Well, What am I doing?,” as well as guided videos.
This was something she really worked hard on, is to create these guided videos. So, it's meditation, I believe there's breathing exercises as well. And, those are really great to help bring you back to your center, really. And then she also compiled a long list of resources. So, while this app is really great for tracking mental health and all of that, it's important that if we need the outside resources, you can get to those. So, she put together Erie County, national-level resources, as well as other app resources.
We have been a little bit Erie-famous lately, and we have been on the news. So, what I'll show here is just a little quick clip that is kind of better explaining Serene. >> Jet 24 Video -- Jill McCormick: COVID has caused a lot of isolation among many people. A team of Penn State Behrend students developed a mental health and mindfulness app to help combat that issue. Yoselin Person joins us now with more about the reason behind the app, Yoselin.
>> Yoselin Person: Jill, the students and professors who created this app just wanted to help those who may be feeling depressed, or even stressed. >> Juriasingani: When COVID really blew up back last spring, we really noticed that there was a lot of stress and anxiety around quarantine… >> Person: …and that's when Erica and others of Penn State Behrend designed an app called Serene. The app is meant to help track your emotions and point shifts in mood. Erica says the world of COVID has brought a lot of isolation.
>> Juriasingani: I was finding that I was just immersed with my schoolwork, I was working nonstop, and then at the end of the day, you’re just keyed up, you're frustrated- >> Person: The app features support videos that introduce users to meditation. >> Juriansingani: I have experience with using these apps before, so I knew that I wanted a calming, inviting interface that would help be easy to navigate… >> Person: The Serene app features activities and resources that can help with depression, and stress. >> Shelton: With everything going on, our rates that we're seeing in the community and worldwide, really- mental health concerns are going way up. >> Person: It offers more than 250 activities and provides a link to Erie County mental health support services, including crisis centers. >> Juriansingani: You just forget to care for yourself, so it's very important that you do that, and that's what the goal of these apps are. >> Person: Now this app is a free app and it can be used by all ages here in Erie County.
To learn more about the app, you can visit yourerie.com, Jill. >> McCormick: OK, Yoselin great information, thank you. >> Juriansingani: OK, so that was just a quick little snippet kind of reiterating some of the things that I had said. As you saw in some of those video shots, actually going through the app you had seen the videos that Antigoni put together as well as the compiled list. You can also, as they mentioned, track your mental health, which is really good to have that visual aspect and be able to see how you were doing on certain days. So, moving forward, one of my pride and joys, my babies in this lab, has been recreating Fort LeBoeuf.
And for some, they're not very familiar with Fort LeBoeuf, it's actually a Fort that no longer exists over in Waterford County. This was French and Indian War, I believe. Am I correct in saying that, Dr. Shelton? Yeah, so French and Indian War.
Sometimes I get a little bit mixed up, but that's OK. So, this Fort was built and burned down three different times, and now, as I said, no longer exists. So there is a lot of challenges when trying to recreate some of this Fort, and so I've been working on this close to several months now and I came into this project not knowing how to create things virtually.
So, I self-taught myself AutoCAD, TwinMotion and all. The whole process in trying to get that. So, what I'm going to do here is kind of show you guys the process of going through, show you what's not available, where we've kind of hit some roadblocks along the way. So, there's not a whole lot of historical text on Fort LeBoeuf, so one of the challenges that I had was gathering what limited information there is, and as you can see down below, this is actually a snippet from George Washington's journal from when he visited LeBoeuf.
And when he visited LeBoeuf, I believe it was in the very early stages of one of the builds, and so this is just a quick little writing about some of it. And, what was really interesting is a lot of the aspects that I was able to put into the fort came from this small, little snippet of a journal that he had. We also had one version of a diagram, and so that's another one that I largely referenced to put together this Fort. These are also dioramas, this is over at the Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society Museum, and they don't know who created the diorama, I think it was back in the 70s- somebody had created it, and so this is about the only diorama that's available, so I also referenced this a lot as well.
As you can see, this is a lot of my process in AutoCAD. It was quite the process learning how to use AutoCAD and create this Fort. There was a lot of different changes throughout the way. I kept in close contact with Dr. Shelton and the team over at Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society. We went over and had conversations, we've had conversations over Zoom just making sure that we get the details right as well.
That's kind of a better image in AutoCAD, so I will say one of the discouraging things is seeing your prototype being put together in AutoCAD, because it's very underwhelming right now. But one of the most exciting things is when you take it over into TwinMotion, now it comes to life. So, this is one of the earlier versions of the Fort when I had moved it over to TwinMotion. TwinMotion is really just a system that I like to say brings life to your projects. Just different angles. As I have gone through, things have changed and I will show some video as well.
So, another one of the tough things about this build is figuring out what the inside of the buildings look like. I have done a lot of referencing of other forts in the area. Fort Ligonier I believe, is one that I've been referencing a lot. I've been pointed in the direction of Fort Niagara. So, it's taking a lot of the different components of forts that are similar in time span as well as region.
I've been referencing a lot of the pictures that we do have of those Forts right now, and so we have been able to kind of recreate this a little bit. You'll see I've been able to add some desks and little maps. On the outside, on the right you'll see I got the inside of the Fort going here and adding small details- I think, another one of the challenges is adding the small details. Really making it look like you didn't just take your AutoCAD file and plop it into TwinMotion. So it's a bigger view.
One of the things- that's actually another cool thing, is this wood I've been able to take from pictures in the Fort and actually put those pictures onto the wood so I can get a material that's as close as we know of for the material there. And this is just a quick little fly through of the Fort, got the inside there. So, as I mentioned, it definitely is still a work in progress, but that is where we're at on that. I know I need to add a lot more into the buildings. So that is where we're at on that project, and we hope to finish it by the end of the semester.
So, moving forward, I will pass it back to Dr. Shelton. >> Shelton: Thank you, Erica. Here we go. Last my glasses there for a second. So, you can see, and I hope you guys heard the passion with which we're talking about these projects.
These projects are so intrinsically valuable not just to myself and other faculty affiliates, I think Erica is a great example of how committed and how passionate our students are about these projects and about getting involved in the community. And, a lot of the work that we're doing is in the community. So, I wish I had time to go over it all today, but I'll touch on just a couple of future projects that you'll see us associated with, so keep an eye out. We are working with the Three Forts Presque Isle. It's a nonprofit in Erie that is hoping to recreate the Fort Presque Isle and similar to Fort LeBoeuf, it was built and burned down three different times.
It had a French version and an English version, and so we'll be doing some digital creations of the French version of their Fort. We're doing some work with the Hagen History Center now. I don't know how much I can really touch on just yet. Suffice it to say, some of our earliest projects will be available when they reopen and have their reopening gala come mid-July.
Some of our earliest projects for them are going to be immersive experience projects focused on Oliver Perry, who is a regionally important individual, as well as some historically immersive stuff on the Erie extension canal. We're also looking at a lot of ways to recreate immersive- or capture immersive experiences in nature, and so we're looking at, and working with partners such as Asbury Woods to put together 360 videos where, you know, potentially schoolchildren who can't make it out can rotate around and instead of having to point a linear camera at an object that you're trying to get them to find, now you can just do the walk through down the trail as you normally would, and then you stop the camera and say, “All right, kids, look around, find this type of moss or find this type of animal borough” and it still adds that immersive challenge to them to look around their surroundings even though they're digital, they can see in 360 and try to find those things. Versus just pointing the camera at it and it kind of gives away the challenge.
We're also looking at a lot of interactive, immersive experiences in nature all across the Northwest Pennsylvania area. Broadly speaking, we do a lot of work in education as well, so we're working with forensic and biological anthropology programs. Especially a couple out of both Mercyhurst University and LaRoche University and projects we're working with them on are using or testing the feasibility of bringing Lidar in to capture crime scenes. So, this is some of some photos of us out at a mock burial crime scene at Mercyhurst to test the feasibility of doing this. We've done some indoor crime scenes up at LaRoche University as well, and this seems to be very promising.
We have really good collaborations with our partners at both universities and we're excited to see what comes with this moving forward. We also, prior to COVID- unfortunately COVID kind of slowed things down, but we were starting to integrate into a number of different projects with school districts in the area. So, Fort LeBoeuf School District and Fairview School District were both interested in having their students become involved in our Fort LeBoeuf program. We're also looking at, or we were, signed on to be a consultant on some other VR work that was coming out of the Fairview School District and the work that their students do in their STEM and gifted academy. All of that has been put on hold, unfortunately, but we're really excited for when restrictions ease and we have a return to a sense of normalcy that we can start that right back up, because student education and student outreach is really important to us. This type of technology oftentimes is cost prohibitive, not just for students, but the public at large, and so outreach is a big component of what we do.
We want to make sure we can show the public and show students, especially what kinds of technology they could work with. So, one of the things that we did last year, right before we went into lockdown was the STEAM fair. I know that probably might sound weird, but it's STEM with the ‘A’ because we acknowledge the role that arts play. That's here at campus and you know I believe several thousand students anywhere from K through 12 are able to come in and experience all sorts of different STEM and art related exhibits.
And so here this was us showcasing some of the VR technology, which a lot of these students have never had a chance to experience before, but once experiencing it, it really kind of psyches them up and challenges and gets their creative juices flowing into thinking about what's possible, what they could do with this type of thing moving forward, which is important because ultimately we need to be teaching to the future and, this will be the future. In the next 5 or 10 years, almost every major technological company is investing significantly, in augmented and virtual reality prototypes. Apple, Facebook, Google, in fact, Google came out and very clearly said that augmented reality is one of the three driving forces moving forward over the next decade or two. So, if we can get our students and our community involved in this tech early on they stand to be better equipped to do it as a career, or to do it as passion projects as they grow older. Real quick here, I know we're running a little over- as I mentioned in the beginning, there's so much to touch on, there's just no way to do it all in time.
But one of the things that I wanted to point out, is that you know, I'm a clinical psychologist- I come from the Department of Psychology. Erica is a psychological or, a psych major and oftentimes our labs are thought of as, well, that's where psychology students go. But to illustrate the broadness, we created this flyer to start posting around campus just to raise awareness of our new lab and to let folks know and let students know, and even faculty that we're looking for all sorts of students. Unfortunately, we haven't had a chance to hang it yet, but once we're past this and back in person, we will be.
But we're looking for majors and students from basically any major, and in fact, if when I show you my list, or our list of student researchers here in a slide or two and if you look at our website, you'll see more. You'll see a blurb for each of them. You'll notice that they come from- they range the gamut of potential majors here.
We have people from communications, we have people from plastics engineering, we have students from DIGIT, and students from computer science. We have students from psychology, and from business. I feel like I'm missing another, but we have students from basically everywhere, because the ability for this technology to work across fields is so broad that if you were to give me a field and give me 5 minutes, I would find a way that we could utilize immersive or virtual and augmented reality within that field.
So, we're really challenging students to come to us, and a big driving force of ours is to provide a chance for them to grow in their experiences and to provide them a chance to create their own paths forward. So, if they come with projects they want, our job is to work to help them see those projects through to fruition. Just as a quick recognition because I can't recognize these folks enough. They are the driving force of the lab.
Without them, this lab would not exist and so I want to take a moment to mention our faculty affiliates, Jasper Sachsenmeier and Karrie Bowen, our graduate researcher, who is the one that worked with me on the mental health content for Serene, Antigoni. Our current undergraduates are Erica, Marcus, Becca, and Kaylee, and as you see we have a number of former undergraduates as well. All of these individuals have gone above and beyond and have proven and demonstrated just how passionate they are about research and about uplifting our community and not just at Behrend, but regionally and eventually we would like to start working on national and international projects as well. So, we really do expect a lot of growth.
Lastly is really, I want to just put it out there- we're always looking for collaborators. I didn't get a chance to really touch on workplace stuff, but we do a lot of stuff and we've had a lot of talks with folks from different industries across Erie to provide, you know, scans of machinery that might be built or to utilize augmented reality in remote maintenance type ways. So there's a lot of different potential to utilize the technology and services we have with Erie-area communities or area companies. So if you have a project, even if you're not part of the company, if you're an individual and want to get involved or want to do a project with us, just reach out.
We are super excited to engage with the public, if you need outreach events, we're happy to do that as well. Also, I would be remiss if I didn't say as a new lab, sponsorship is a very important thing. So if you are a company and are able to sponsor a student, that would be extremely helpful to get our students involved in the research at a deeper level because the fact of the matter is in this day and age most of our students are unable to become involved in research when they have to work a part-time job and so my goal, and one of my biggest goals is to provide a platform wherein I can provide that job in the form of doing the research here at the lab.
So, if you feel like sponsoring a student, reach out. But this is not meant to plug that. So, I apologize if I went on too long. A special thanks to some of our sponsors that have helped us along the way. STERIS Corporation donated some equipment, some VR headsets for our students, as mentioned earlier, Dr. John M. Lilley and Hammermill provided donations that went to support our immersive Behrend history application.
We also have our initial- some of our initial startup funds came from ECGRA, Ignite Erie, and just wanted to mention some of our many partners, such as the Hagen History Center, Asbury Woods, Fort LeBeouf and many others. So, I encourage you to check out our website for more information. And with that I am done. Thank you for bearing with me. I know I went a bit over and I apologize, but there's just there's so much that we can do with this technology and these experiences and this research to really reach, not just students but the community in research and outreach.
And so, it's something we're really passionate about and we love sharing with folks, so we tend to go a little overboard in our speeches about it, I guess. >> Daehnke: Chris, thank you. That was that was fantastic. I really appreciate Erica and you taking the time.
We do have a few questions. We try to wrap this up by 10 o'clock for timing sake, but a few questions were sent ahead of time and then we have a few that have been posted, and I encourage anybody listening to add any questions that you have. But I'll go ahead and get started.
The first one, “Is the VAR lab currently being used in the medical field, and if so, how? Or do you have any plans?”. You've talked about outreach to other students, is that something that is happening? >> Shelton: Absolutely yeah, that was actually one that is being heavily utilized in the field right now. One of my goals within mental health is to start utilizing it in similar ways to treat or to train our graduate students in like detection or recognition of mental health symptoms. But it absolutely is being utilized across the medical field. There are VR courses for anthropology, there are VR courses that allow you to look at any of the different bone groups and rotate and manipulate the bones all in virtual reality, there are a lot of these are very- there's a lot of simulated or simulation based apps.
So, like simulations of knee surgery, or open-heart surgery- stuff like that. They're in their infancy still. So, it's not to say that these are, you know, to replace classes yet, but I think they do offer a really good way to supplement what we can do in a traditional textbook and lecture based course.
And so, yes, there is a lot of that, and one of our first things that we were doing here as we opened up, we were working with the entire College of Nursing here at Behrend, and we were going to have a two-day -- all day, for two days -- run-through to test some of the modules for a course that they wanted to do with VR. And then this was again literally two weeks before spring break, and then we shut down over spring break and so it was set to be, I believe we were going to do it a week after spring break, so unfortunately that hasn't come to pass. But I'm really excited to implement those things once we get back into open teaching and a resumption of more normal teaching, I guess.
Hopefully come fall. >> Daehnke: So, along the same lines- how about manufacturing? And is there a way to use the VR lab with engineering students to train them on certain technologies? >> Shelton: Uh-huh, yeah, absolutely. There are a number of things that, you know, haven't been developed that we could develop. You know, one of the great things that drew me to the Behrend College, but also to the Erie Area, is our students and our range of majors. So, we have really good computer science programmers, we have really good engineers, we have really good students in DIGIT, in graphic design and so we're able to pull all of these different elements and students into our research to, you know, even if we wanted to design something of our own, we can design some of these elements. But there are some preexisting things like there is- there are welding simulators now that some of the major welding companies will utilize these simulators because it's quicker, easier and less prone to accident, or any sort of harmful danger training in these types of simulations, versus doing it in person in real life.
And it offers a lot of advantages too, because the computer can look at how much, you know, if you're doing welding, much of the welds you're making. Are you using too much or putting too much of a weld down versus not enough, and then it's stressing the material? That might be a little bit harder to see visually, but the computers can calculate that and allow you to train to become more precise. We've also seen this work across a range of industries.
I've had talks, like I mentioned with some of our manufacturing companies here in Erie to produce Lidar scans of their major equipment that they build on site and then pack up and shipped, so that if there are any issues that arise to when it comes time to rebuild it, they can reference an actual scan of the built machinery, which is always a bit different than what they design in CAD. It never is produced exactly, and so you have the CAD, but then trying to explain what was different without having an actual like spatially and visually accurate representation of the built model can be difficult. And so we've talked about utilizing Lidar to quickly and easily and efficiently, but also cheaply provide that for them. So there’s a lot of potential within industry. >> Daehnke: OK, do you have any gaming creation? >> Shelton: So, we don't currently, but we're working on a number of projects to do just that. Absolutely, some of the things that I haven't had a chance to talk about- we are in the midst of working with some of the professors- sorry, I'm tongue-tied today- some of the professors over in engineering and in DIGIT and so, Game 480, the course is a course that students work on putting together a game and traditionally in the past they've done it in smaller groups, but we're working with the instructor to create one group.
The whole class works on putting together a game that we are proposing within VAR lab to put together something related to the Wintergreen Gorge and Sustainability. So, we're hopeful that that takes flight this coming fall. We also are working with other groups on campus, such as the Robotics Club and gauging interest and availability to put together a rover that we can operate remotely to move our Pro 2 360 cameras so that we're not in the shot. If you look at some of those videos that are on our website they got a little messed up in transit today, but if you look at some you'll see an arm or a leg that's caught when we're trying to hide behind a tree and so building a rover that can, you know, move smoothly over this type of terrain. But yeah, and there's a number of other games that we're working on or are under consideration, especially for potential projects with like the Hagen History Center.
>> Daehnke: Well, that's great. I think that's all the questions we have for today. So, I just again wanted to thank you and Erica, it's been great, and everybody for participating in the webinar. We hope that you found it informative as well.
And, if you'd like to support the VAR lab or any other initiative on campus, please reach out to me to discuss. My email has been posted in the chat box and I can connect you with Chris. There's also a giving link to the VAR lab if you wish to support that.
Our next Rise and Shine webinar will take place on Thursday, May 13th and focuses on gardening tips from a Penn State Master Gardener as well as sustainability projects happening on campus. Thank you to everyone and have a great day. >> Shelton: Thank you.
Thank you for having us have a good day.