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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Not only is virtual reality real, but you can now use it to pick your future alma mater

Today, in classrooms all across the nation, K-12 teachers are using the teaching tool Google Cardboard from the Expeditions Pioneer Program.

The device, which looks like a simple cardboard box, gives a virtual reality tour of destinations that kids can view while remaining seated at their desks.

The program was initially created to expose students to historic and environmental locations worldwide.

Sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Great Barrier Reef could be seen and toured using the Google Cardboard.

During the virtual tours, viewers can watch videos and hear ambient noises at each site, creating a more life-like experience. Since then, the next phase of the project has been to show people college campuses via a virtual tour rather than having them physically come to the campuses.

For some, visiting a college campus can be too expensive or too difficult. Seeking a solution for that, first lady Michelle Obama joined forces with Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program to help create the college Expeditions project.

The UA, seeing this as an opportunity to expose more people to the campus, decided to get involved with the program. UA Libraries and Student Affairs partnered with Google and reached an agreement that was signed last year, creating the University of Arizona Campus Expedition.

Photographs showcasing a number of important areas around the UA campus for the project were taken December 2015, and the 3-D virtual tour will be available for viewers this spring.

Highlighting the universities’ reputation for high-level research, the Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory as well as the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research will be featured on the tour. The oldest building located on campus, Old Main, as well as the youngest building, Environment and Natural Resources 2, will been seen through the virtual tour. Other locations included in the tour are Campus Recreation and McKale Center.

Although the Google Cardboard may prove to be more convenient and affordable in some cases, some are still not 100 percent sold on a virtual tour being better than a physical tour of a college campus.

“It isn’t as good of an experience as if you came, but it is the next best thing,” said Jane Prescott-Smith, special assistant to the dean of UA Libraries.

For many of the UA’s international students, the Expeditions project could have been hugely beneficial in their college selection process.

“When choosing a college to attend, going on a college visit was impossible for me as I lived in the Philippines. So if I would’ve had access to a program like this when I was choosing a college, it would have been very helpful,” said Danielle Racelis, an aerospace engineering junior. “I came to this college with no idea of the campus, other than what Google Earth had to offer. Choosing to study abroad is a scary enough decision to make, but on top of that, having no idea of what the campus was like added more stress.”

Students applying domestically would benefit from the project as well. Alex Witt, a sophomore studying communication and gender and women’s studies, applied all over the country. She applied to many colleges without having seen the campuses.

“I applied to several colleges before choosing the [UA],” Witt said. “A good portion of them were across the country, which made it impossible to visit and see what their campuses were like. With the Google Cardboard, I would’ve been able to see all the colleges I had applied to instead of just the ones that were close enough to visit.”

The future goal of this program is to give any person with Internet access the opportunity to tour any college campus in the country. By the end of the year, 2 million of the Google Cardboards are expected to be distributed to users across the country, allowing prospective students to visit campuses without having to deal with the possibility of exuberant travel expenses or the impediment of travel logistics.

Follow Jessica Prettyman on Twitter.

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