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GV Expo: VR Provides a New Way to Look at Data

Perhaps inspecting a virtualized fly’s brain wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when the staff at the University of Virginia’s Advanced Research Computing Service department purchased its virtual reality equipment, but it certainly fit the intended goal.

WASHINGTON—Perhaps inspecting a virtualized fly’s brain wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when the staff at the University of Virginia’s Advanced Research Computing Service department purchased its virtual reality equipment, but it certainly fit the intended goal. While not initially sure of what the reaction of the researchers that utilize ARCS would be to the new VR technology, Jackie Huband, a computational research support specialist at ARCS and panelist for this year’s 2017 Government Video Expo, said they went with the mentality “buy it and they will come.”

One of the main goals of ARCS is to enable researchers to run computational simulations, analyze collected data, or process images stacks. Working with visuals can make those complex problems easier to understand. That was what led to the purchase of a virtual reality system and the researchers have been eager to experiment with it. A prime example of this is the aforementioned creation of virtualized fly’s brain.

“We were able to take that data and import it into virtual reality so now this fly brain is suspended in air and you can walk around it,” said Huband. “You can look at it from all different angles and you get a much better sense of how everything fits together within the brain.

“After all, our sight has been trained to see things in more of a real-world environment, so if we can move three-dimensional data into virtual reality, we can see it in a more natural format.”

ARCS has also assisted in the development of VR programs that are designed to help with training methods, whether that be for people who are going into unfamiliar cultures; student teachers being put to the test in a difficult school environment; or for physical therapy patients.

The success thus far with VR at ARCS has led for the desire to acquire more VR headsets to further expand its capabilities for these training programs and other VR needs, according to Huband.

The “From Research to (Virtual) Reality” panel will take place at 1 p.m. on Nov. 30 on the Government Video Theater Stage. The 2017 Government Video Expo will take place from Nov. 28-30 in Washington.

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