Bepsy Strasburg was out running errands Friday afternoon when she stopped by the Carson City Library. While there, she took a trip around the world and through time and space — visiting a family in India, walking with dinosaurs and tripping through the stars — with the help of virtual reality.
“When I was in with the meteorites and planets, my legs felt like maybe they weren’t on stable ground,” she said. “It’s like you were floating.”
The virtual and augmented reality stations were set up as part of the library’s Grand Reopening Ceremony, which included a webinar presentation to librarians across the state.
Tammy Westergard, assistant administrator for the Nevada State Library and Archives, introduced XRLibraries, which makes virtual, augmented and mixed reality technology available to public libraries.
John MacLeod, executive director at New Media Learning and founder of XRLibraries and content provider Mark Anderson, vice president of growth at Lifeliqe, joined the webinar. Sara Jones, former director of the Carson City Library, was part of pilot the program as the director of the Marin County Free Library system. It has now expanded to libraries across California and is being introduced to Nevada.
“We’re all in this together because we can all see this is the next step in technology and a great place for education to advance,” Jones said. “You can do so many things with it. The sky is the limit.”
The panel showed a video where students described the benefits of learning in a three-dimensional environment, saying it bridged the gap between the classroom and the real world, catered to the visual learner and provided a safe space for those with anxiety and other disorders.
Anderson said experts predict augmented reality will be a universally used technology within three to five years.
He said the technology can help students see the inside of blood vessel or experience outer space.
“You are literally immersed into this world. There’s this feeling of presence, actually being there,” he said. “We live in three dimensions. Clearly, our brains are better suited to to learning in three dimensions.”
Sena Loyd, director of the Carson City Library, said she would like to see the technology available locally.
“It’s important for us to create meaningful links between school, home, after school and summer programs,” she said. “After school and during summer programs is where we connect with students most. This program would help us provide lifelong learning for the digital age.”
Libraries that are selected to participate in the program should be up and running by April 1. “This expansion of virtual reality programs is now extended to Nevada through resources from the 2017 legislature and SB 549, which specifically addresses emerging technology in libraries,” Westergard said. “We’re incredibly excited about it and grateful to the Legislature. We will have wonderful stories to tell about it in 2019.”