By Jenelle Pierce, Staff Writer-
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library Studio provides a unique workspace for students, with resources that few can find elsewhere.
This includes video, sound, and photo editing software, high-end cameras and audio recording devices, 3-D printers, special audio and video recording rooms, and even a virtual reality (VR) suite complete with an HTC Vive and Alienware computer.
If you walk around the backside of the UTC Library Studio on the third floor and peek through the glass, you may see someone wearing a large, bug-eye looking headset, holding space-age looking controllers, and moving around as if they are fighting off invisible enemies with an unseen sword.
What they’re doing, you might have guessed, is playing a video game using the studio’s virtual reality VR equipment.
Emily Thompson, UTC Studio Director, spoke to the importance of offering the wide range of technology that is available in the studio.
She said, “Part of what we think of as the mission of the studio is to provide access to unusual and new software and hardware that students might not be able to get access to on their own…that’s one of the reasons we also have things like the 3-D printers.”
As it turns out, VR equipment can offer a lot of utility. In addition to helping students relax with video games, which is what the room is most often used for, Thompson explained that VR equipment can be used in a multitude of creative ways.
“I think there’s definitely an educational value,” she explained. “We’ve got a number of drawing programs and several 3-D modeling programs.”
The studio offers a wide variety of games and software for the VR suite, and also considers requests for new games. They do, however, have to consider any potential issues before purchasing a game for the suite, like cost and the level of gore.
“We will never get Beat Saber,” Thompson sighed as she explained the process. “You have to buy the songs in packs of ten songs, so to get enough songs to play Beat Saber would cost…” she shook her head. “Plus, even if we had 200 songs, there would always be someone asking why we don’t have the song they want,” she added.
One of the studio librarians, Sarah Kantor, offered up her opinion of the suite as well.
“It’s very cool,” she said. “There are people who come here all the time to play video games. Even though I get a little nauseous, I think it’s fun.”
The studio asks that before any student, faculty, or staff uses the VR Suite, they reserve the space and review the rules on the website.
The room can be reserved for up to four people at a time. Any student who wishes to enter the suite must be 18 or older and is required to sign an assumption of risk and release of liability form and show their MocsID before entering the room. They ask that you also be aware that some people get nauseous while using the equipment, so while you can reserve the room for three hours at a time, it’s very unlikely any individual will play for more than about an hour.
For more information or to reserve the space, visit the website here: https://www.utc.edu/library/services/studio/space/index.php