The TIMARA department at Oberlin College recently hosted an exciting Virtual Reality (VR)  Winter Term project, “Immersive Digital Media Design,” led by visiting assistant professor Christopher Poovey, who specializes in composing, media art, and creative coding. The project provided students with an opportunity to explore the world of VR and game engine development using Unity.

Students were assigned to groups that brought together a diverse range of experiences and expertise in music technology, studio art, and computer science. Working together in the multichannel audio studio, these groups were able to create their first VR experience in just one month. One of the projects that was created is called “room.exe,”  created by Phillip Chao, Dan Ha Le, and Kayla Shomar-Corbett.

 The concept of this project is that the VR user is a college student who lives in an open double with another student. It’s late at night and they are able to look around with a flashlight in the dark. It’s an exploratory experience! However, something about the room feels wrong…. 

According to the Dan, Kayla, and Phillip, “This Winter Term project was really memorable for our team as it was the first time any of us has ever worked in Unity and operated a VR headset! At the beginning, we were all very intimidated by the complicated layout of the game making engine Unity. However, Professor Poovey thoroughly walked us through all of its basic functions, as well as helped us get a clear picture of what we wanted to achieve during the three week period working on the project.”

The VR Winter Term project’s focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and the use of VR technology has provided students with an exciting and challenging opportunity to explore new ways of creating and interacting with digital environments. Poovey said, “Making an engaging VR environment is a difficult multidisciplinary task that combines visual design, programming, music, and sound design. Each group has produced a unique project that shows an amazing amount of work and care and honestly has surpassed my expectations of what was possible within the month.”

The project culminates in a winter term virtual reality showcase on Wednesday January 25 at 7:30 and 8:15 pm, where students will showcase their work to the public. This VR Winter Term intensive provided a unique and valuable learning experience for students, allowing them to explore new technologies and techniques while working in small, interdisciplinary teams and utilizing the multichannel audio studio. It is a perfect example of the immersive and hands-on learning opportunities that are available to students during Oberlin’s Winter Term.