ORONO - A unique laboratory on the University of Maine campus opened it's doors to the public Wednesday, holding an open house to show off some high-tech projects that students have been working on.
"I think the most impressive thing I hear from people is that they know it's not real, but they jump anyway," Richard Corey, Director of Operations at the Virtual Environments and Multimodal Interaction lab, says.
We're talking about virtual and augmented reality technologies. Something students at the University of Maine have been researching and developing for five years now.
But the Virtual Environments and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) lab, focuses on much more.
"We've started looking into different forms of spatialized audio, looking into tactile information like how to operate a map if you don't have sight," Corey explains.
The lab is Maine's only research facility that combines both technologies, but there's another asset that makes it even more unique.
"What we're doing is merging different senses," Nicholas Giudice, Professor and Director of the VEMI lab, says. "We're making virtual reality that includes audio information, touch, and more. So not only are you seeing things, but you're hearing sounds around you, and when you move these things move. You really feel like you're actually there."
"Most people have never had their heads inside a head-mounted display, which is an entire computer stuck on your head," Corey says.
The devices can even play a role in simulating emergency response situations for first responders.
It's the hands on factor that students get in the lab that may put them ahead of others in competing for jobs, especially on the east coast.
"For us it's all about the cutting edge technology and what's next," Corey explains. "It's great to give these students the opportunity to move into a world that you probably only hear about in California."
"I think there are people who are interested in incorporating new technologies into existing businesses," Dustin Sleight, a student who works at the lab, says. "I think that's an asset that we'll carry with us when we get out of school."
The hope is to bring these ideas and gadgets to a more local scale, something administrators see happening in the near future.