July 2nd, 2014 | University

Yale considers enhanced virtual reality tours

Within the next few years, prospective students may be able to get a virtual reality tour of the Yale campus using a “ski goggle-like” device known as the Oculus Rift.

The Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that is expected to hit shelves within the next two years, was originally marketed as a means to enhance users’ gaming experiences. But one company, YouVisit, has adapted the technology to enhance virtual college tours.

YouVisit — a firm formerly known as YourCampus360 that provides walking tours for about 1,000 different American universities, including Yale — recently adapted its website so that any individual with the Oculus Rift will be able to use the headset to view college tours.

Adam Estes, a technology blogger for Gizmodo, published an article on Friday detailing his tour of Yale using the Oculus Rift from an office in New York City.

“When I pulled the ski goggle-like device onto my face, I disappeared to a cool, dark room in New Haven, where I was looking at one of the original publications of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was thrilling in the nerdiest of ways,” he wrote in the review.

According to Gizmodo, several colleges have already purchased their own Oculus Rift development kits for admissions officers to use on recruiting trips. The admissions officers would let prospective students use the headset during school visits rather than rely on the virtual tours that are posted on the college’s website.

Mark Dunn, senior assistant director of Yale’s Admissions Office, said in an email to the News that YouVisit had contacted the University last week to discuss the possibility of Yale incorporating Oculus Rift technology in its recruitment efforts.

Although Yale does not have any current plans to implement the technology in its outreach efforts, Dunn said the technology was compelling and already linked to the University’s existing virtual tour. He added that Yale’s virtual tour, which was published in 2012, has since been viewed tens of thousands of times and that the University would continue looking into ways of making the tour available to the widest possible audience.

Oculus Rift was purchased this May by Facebook for approximately $2 billion.