Virtual reality (augmented reality): The next step in information evolution

From oral traditions to pictographs to manuscripts to mass production printing, humans have always looked for the best way to share stories with the most number of people in the most effective way. We have adapted to use different media to tell our stories and virtual reality and augmented reality are the next media platforms.

Libraries have long been a place to try out new technologies before they become household items. Remember when Bill Gates gave us all those PCs?

Immersive experiences can provide safe training spaces (imagine performing surgery without having to risk a patient), increase empathy (imagine literally viewing the world through the eyes of a person who is homeless) and let one travel without limits (imagine taking a field trip to the moon—walking in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps).

The HTC Vive is one of the first commercially available VR headsets and one of the most high-end platforms available. Because it’s more than just a headset, users experience more immersive activities because the handheld controllers are tracked as well as the head.

The following programs help to get a feel for what VR can be:

  • Tilt brush – 3-D art you can create and interact with
  • Google Earth – visit anywhere the Google cameras have been
  • The Body VR – learn about biological systems as if you were in the Fantastic Voyage
  • SoundStage – virtual sound equipment to create music

As patrons start to see VR depicted in more areas of life (“Ready Player One” hits theaters in March 2018), providing the unique experience of actually being a participant in VR will be an exciting opportunity for Hoosiers in every community.

The HTC Vive Virtual Reality Kit is available for check out by libraries eligible for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants through the Indiana State Library (ISL), including school and academic libraries, as well as any public library that meets standards. The kit is available for a loan period of three months and will be delivered and set up by ISL staff who can train up to six staff members at the time of delivery. Libraries can return the kit to ISL after use or schedule a time for an ISL staff person to pick it up. The kit cannot be shipped through InfoExpress. Libraries are encouraged to develop programming around the kit to share with patrons. The HTC Vive Virtual Reality Kit can be scheduled by contacting your regional coordinator.

HTC Vive Virtual Reality Kit components:

  • 1 set of HTC Vive Virtual Reality equipment (including head set, 2 hand controllers, 2 light houses, and cables)
  • 2 tripods for the lighthouses
  • 1 computer (not wireless compatible)
  • 1 keyboard
  • 1 mouse

Funding for this project is from the Institute of Museum and Library Service under the provisions of the LSTA.

VR in libraries:
Public Libraries Online  – provides programming ideas
California’s Virtual Reality Experience  – installed VR systems in over half of the public library jurisdictions in underserved communities
Library Use of New Visualizaton Technologies – a blog post by MIT Information Science Graduate Research Intern, Diana Hellyar

This blog post was written by Wendy Knapp, associate director of statewide services. 

E-Rate internet connectivity filing due on May 11

In the budget recently passed by the general assembly, libraries will see increased funding for the non-E-Rate portion of their internet connectivity bills. Many libraries still struggle to provide adequate bandwidth at peak usage times and the spike in usage during after school hours is especially taxing for libraries that serve communities with one-to-one programs.

The Pew Research Center recently released a report that indicates that even though low-income Americans are experiencing greater levels of connectivity, it is still significantly different from the adoption rates of middle to high income households. As more patrons have adopted the use of more devices, the libraries’ Wi-Fi can be easily overloaded. Adequate broadband delivery to the library is just the first step in helping to alleviate this issue, but one that has been recognized by the state as a service that would benefit everyone through increased funding.

With fewer than two weeks left to complete your filing for E-Rate this year, libraries have an opportunity to increase the “ask” for connectivity for next year. Filing is due on or before Thursday, May 11, 2017 at midnight. The additional $500,000 dedicated to support library connectivity is a great tool to leverage both federal and state funding to help bridge the digital divide within your community. For questions please contact Karen Ainslie of the Indiana State Library.

This post was written by Wendy Knapp. Wendy is a member of the ALA’s Office of Information Technology Policy E-Rate Taskforce.