Harrisburg University Virtusphere Can Take Users Almost Anywhere 

At first glance it may look like a giant hamster ball, but it is really an amazing new tool for exploring virtual environments.

by Straight Line Friday, April 08, 2011
Harrisburg, PA, April 07, 2011 - At first glance it may look like a giant hamster ball, but it is really an amazing new tool for exploring virtual environments. Known as the Virtusphere, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania is home to one of only four of these tools in the United States.

The state-of-the art simulation platform has endless possibilities as students work to develop virtual worlds to be explored on campus and off, says Charles Palmer, executive director of the school’s Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies.

The Virtusphere is a 10-foot hollow sphere that is placed on a special platform that allows the sphere to rotate freely in any direction according to the user’s steps. Wearing a wireless, head-mounted display, users can step inside the sphere to fully interact in immersive virtual environments. The Virtusphere enables 6 degrees of freedom - one can move in any direction; walk, jump, roll, crawl, run over virtually unlimited distances without encountering real-world physical obstacles.

The movement by the user is replicated within the virtual environment. The same hardware set can be used for different applications by changing only the software applications. This state-of-the-art simulation platform provides infinite space for the most immersive experience ranging from entertainment to medical training.

"One of the things we like to do here is to make everything very experiential so when we give our students experiences, we want them to be other than just a classroom and a lecture What we want to do is really look at places that people can't be and places that people can't go. So what if I could ride or walk thought the blood stream of a person, what if I could actually watch a cancer cell as it mutates or what if I could walk around the solar system?"

It's not just science; the Virtusphere could be a time machine and take you back to Gettysburg in 1863.

Palmer said that is very easy to show. "You can imagine let's say you want to put someone in the role of a frontline solider, right there in the battle itself and someone sit in here with the goggles on and sort of look left and right and see other soldiers and look across the battle field and see the charging enemy coming at them."

Anything that is spatial and could be explored is a possibility, making the Virtusphere ideal for simulation training for military, law enforcement, fire safety, and counter terrorism, entertainment & gaming, health and fitness, museums & education, architecture and construction walk thrus, events and shows, virtual travel & tourism.

Harrisburg University undergraduate student Todd Baker plans to use the Virtusphere to develop a robot that can be controlled by a person in the sphere for his senior project.

"Let’s say, for instance, Three Mile Island had an accident. Someone could use one of these to drive a robot from anywhere, even Washington, D.C., for instance. They wouldn’t have to put any humans in danger, and you would still be able to handle the situation," Baker said.

The STEM-focused private comprehensive university has been in contact with businesses and organizations in the community, pitching ideas for practical uses of the sphere. Faculty and students at the University are creating customized virtual environments for use in the Virtusphere. To learn more about the Virtusphere, to request a tour, to discuss a project, or to meet with faculty about the device, email Connect@HarrisburgU.edu. Visit online at http://www.HarrisburgU.edu/Virtusphere

Founded in 2001 to address Central Pennsylvania’s need for increased opportunities for study leading to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, Harrisburg University is an innovative and ambitious private institution that produces graduates who provide increased competence and capacity in science and technology disciplines to Pennsylvania and the nation. Harrisburg University ensures institutional access for underrepresented students and links learning and research to practical outcomes. As a private University serving the public good, Harrisburg University remains the only STEM-focused comprehensive university located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

For more information on the University's demand-driven undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs in applied science and technology fields, call 717.901.5146 or email Connect@HarrisburgU.edu

Steven Infanti
AVP Communications
326 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101

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