The strangest part was waiting in a completely dark room, illuminated only by the gigantic blood vessel floating in mid-air. I’m waiting for Tom who is currently in Washington DC but has arranged to meet me in this virtual room at 3pm. It’s 2.58pm and I’m actually feeling a bit edgy. Will Tom appear in front of me or behind me? I back up to the door and feel completely stupid. Tom appears, thankfully just in front of me. He is represented as a floating white sphere wearing a VR headset. He is clearly much taller than me, or is he standing on a crate back in DC! We discuss the dataset and Tom tells me about how he came to design this software that we are currently inhabiting. Odd for me; must be a whole world of odd for someone who writes code and then steps inside it, to talk to someone on the other side of the Atlantic.
There was no lag and we conversed as easily as you would on Skype or on the telephone, with the addition of playing with a virtual blood vessel whilst chatting. Imagine now a bigger room with more people. A virtual lecture theatre with 1000 or more students at home wearing their VR headsets. No slides, just 3D and 4D datasets to examine and ponder. It’s not that far away. In fact The University of Glasgow will have a VR teaching lab ready for next semester (12-15 students per session).
These are exciting times for Higher Education and the proposed arrival of 5G at some point will really accelerate developments.
Quite what a university will look like in 30-50 years is anyone guess. What ever it looks like, I’m fairly certain it will be unrecognisable when compared with today.