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Studio Rhode: Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

Start with a Purpose

Virtual Reality (VR) equipment is shiny and exciting, but without a reason to have it in your library, it may end up un-or-under used. Consider ways that VR can enhance existing programs. The Warwick Library used VR to supplement a book club, Providence built in a connection to the summer reading program, and both libraries offered new opportunities for digital creation. VR can promote empathy, expand the world of the user and offer immersive and memorable learning experiences.

Consider the Side Effects

 Motion sickness, headaches, and other physical side effects may accompany the use of virtual reality equipment. Consider age limits. The Warwick Library created a waiver with their city’s legal department so that everyone using the equipment was aware of the potential side effects. And if you decide to create your own 360-degree content, as Providence did, use higher quality equipment that can be held still using a tripod or dolly. 

Weigh Expense, Quality, and Purpose

Equipment for virtual reality can get very expensive and you may find yourself asking if you really need to spend that much on equipment. The answer is often, yes—if you want to do it right. To process 360-degree videos or support a fully immersive VR system you need a computer with a powerful processor. If you are unsure what equipment to buy, consult the budget documents from Providence and Warwick or consult with a local expert.

Explore Free Experiences

Many high-quality free virtual reality experiences are available for any type of virtual reality system you plan to use. The Oculus Experiences store and VIVEPort both have many free experiences for download, and companies like Google, BBC, New York Times, and The Guardian are producing high-quality educational experiences. You can also peruse YouTube 360-degree videos to find user-created 360-degree experiences or upload your own 360-degree content there.

Buy Extra Batteries—and Storage

If you are interested in filming in 360 degrees, your camera may use a lot of battery power. Providence Community Library found that a single battery gave only about an hour of filming and recommends purchasing additional batteries and a portable charging dock. Similarly, 360-degree video files are large and will require external storage.

Acknowledge the Learning Curve

Though the Studio Rhode Projects using virtual reality had relatively tech-savvy staff working on their projects, the learning curve was nonetheless greater than they anticipated. The Warwick Library hired a paid consultant to do initial set-up and train the staff and felt this up-front expertise truly helped the project succeed. The Providence Community Library did not hire any consultants—and wished they had. If you cannot afford a consultant, provide ample staff time for learning new equipment and programs.

Plan for Sanitation

Remember to build a line-item in your virtual reality budget for wipes or masks. Your community members will be using the same VR headset repeatedly, and sanitation is a concern. Buy disposable facial wipes or clean the headset between uses with antibacterial wipes; disposable stick-on masks are also made specifically for virtual reality headsets.