Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Peacebuilding Through The Arts Students at Utah Valley University Step Into Virtual Reality

"The only way to truly grasp how transformative VR can be is to experience it," wrote Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist for Occulus VR, in his 2016 article, "Welcome to the Virtual Age." A group of college students and their professors at Utah Valley University were given the chance to step into this transformative terrain on April 12, many for the first time.

Denise Windley presented her plans to create a virtual experience featuring Haitian music, culture, and life to bridge the gap of understanding and spur an interest in the island nation.  In order to demonstrate virtual reality's potential for change-making, she was joined by Utah VR experts,  Chris Madsen and Bryan Burr, who arrived with the gear and tools to lead them into the virtual domain.

Within the physical space of a classroom, the two guided senior level students enrolled in the Spring Semester Peacebuilding Through the Arts (PJST 475R) class, along with the class's co-instructors Dr. Michael Minch (Peace and Justice Studies) and Assistant Professor Monica Campbell (Dance), through several virtual reality programs.  Among the experiences were vrse’s “Clouds Over Sidra,” “Waves of Grace,” nytvr’s “The Displaced,” “Inside Impact: East Africa,” and “Song for Someone” featuring U2 and musicians from around the world, created by Chris Milk.

Brigham Young University filmmaker Mathew Armstrong caught the transformative experience on camera.  Armstrong is working on a documentary about VR in Utah.

Chris Madsen (far left) guides UVU students through virtual reality experience.

Photographs by Denise Windley