As part of our ongoing efforts to increase support for STEM education in our region, Neuse Regional Libraries were one of fifteen systems in the country to be awarded the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) grant for the Accelerating Promises Practices for Small Libraries initiative this year. Our focus for the grant is to develop our new STEMology program for grade school students as well as increase exposure to new technologies throughout the region.
A major focus of this program is increasing access to technology for our younger library users, and one of the most sought after technologies that has matured greatly within the past decade is virtual reality, or VR. The award from the grant has been used to purchase two Oculus VR headsets as well as a custom PC to help run the VR software.
If you’re not familiar with virtual reality, it uses a fully immersive headset to put players or participants into a game or other interactive experience. This can be used for having fun or relaxing, for learning, or for pursing creative projects. An example of VR software for the Oculus Touch that can be used creatively is Medium. This software allows the VR controllers and headset to be used to create 3D models in real time in a virtual environment. The software allows you to shape and sculpt virtual clay in any way you see fit. If you are not confident enough yet to try freeform sculpting, there are plenty of preset standard and custom shape categories that you can build from such as Bones, Organic, Cloth or Mechanical. Once you have completed your piece you can export it from the Oculus software so that it may be 3D printed.
There are also an incredible number of educational VR experiences available as well. They showcase recreated real world environments that you can navigate and also include narration that elaborate on certain aspects of each location. Examples of these kinds of apps include Anne Frank House VR which lets users explore all of the rooms in the secret annex of the Frank House as it was from 1942 to 1944; Nefertari: Journey to Eternity, which teaches you the history of ancient Egypt while exploring a detailed recreated version of the queen’s tomb, and Mission: ISS which lets the user dock a space capsule, go on a space walk and navigate around the international space station itself.
We can’t wait to get this technology in the hands of our patrons. We currently give VR demos as one of our many Try it! programs at the Kinston-Lenoir County Public Library and hope to begin regular VR programming with patrons soon. If you like more information, please call 252-527-7066 Ext. 124.