YURT: Virtual Reality at 180 George

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Behind all of the ugly construction surrounding Barus and Holley, the 180 George building houses an unparalleled virtual reality system. Named for its shape, furbished with 69 projectors, and a pixel resolution equivalent to retinal display (the human eye could not perceive anything more detailed), the Yurt Ultimate Reality Theater opened in the summer of 2015. The field of virtual reality isn’t new to Brown; before we had this machine, there was the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE). Technology like the CAVE allowed scientists and artists alike to explore their fields with three dimensional visualizations. MRI scans became interactive for medical students, while poets experimented with words that literally jumped off the projector. In 2009, Brown decided it was time for an upgrade, involving a 360 degree display with interactive floors and ceilings.

In the spirit of educating campus about this exciting new feature, we hung out with Computer Science Professor David Laidlaw to talk about his brainchild, and the functions of high quality virtual reality. Before diving into the interview, you should know that Professor Laidlaw is a busy man. It took over two weeks to set up a time to see YURT, and right before our rendezvous, this texting exchange occurred:

david

It’s cool, I’ll wait.

Upon greeting me (after class, of course), his first question was, “what happened to your mustache?” Let it also be noted that I initially forgot to take my shoes off inside the machine and that every time Professor Laidlaw handed me a piece of equipment, static shocks reverberated in both our hands. Basically, the interview was electric. Jokes aside, it was time to get down to serious business. A.K.A. it was time to play 3D Minecraft, or as David affectionately called it, YURTCraft.

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Why I fear Computer Science courses

Just because you can’t read it, doesn’t mean it won’t kill you.

This fall, I am doing something f***ing crazy. It’s on my senior bucket list, but it’s not the Naked Donut Run (been there, done that), and no, it’s not the SciLi challenge. What I am doing is way more hard-core than that.

I am enrolled in CSCI0150: Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming, otherwise known as CS15.

While not everyone will be doing coordinated stretch breaks with Andy van Dam this semester, a lot of you have probably toyed around with the idea of taking a computer science course before. Banner stats currently put the registration numbers for CS15 and CS17 (another introductory course) at 394 and 214, respectively.

That being said, a lot of you have also wimped out. No shame, we totally get it–computer science is scary! The cold, gripping fear of sitting down in the Sun Lab (or more recently, your own computer), and having no clue how to go about your assignment–it’s enough for anyone to drop.

All of the concentrators will tell you that’s silly talk. Sure, it will be a lot of work, but you’ll be capable of it! Essentially, the fear of CS is irrational. I am here to tell you about my own fear of computer science, which is irrational, but for very different reasons. These are all the things I’m afraid will happen if I take CS:

  • I will undoubtedly awaken an internet demon that will manipulate me into freeing it from its digital prison, and wreak havoc on campus a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It will name me as its co-conspirator on Reddit, and everyone will hate me.
  • The complete lack of sunlight will cause my appearance to shift into something like this:

    Deep sea Angler fish

    Smile for your graduation picture!

  • The tech bubble will burst upon my graduation, and I will still end up jobless and alone.

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Maybe she'll end up becoming the governor of a major US state

How we should spend the $44 million engineering grant

It's a Transformer, not because it can change between car and mecha form, but because it has a fluid sense of gender identityIn case you missed the news, the Engineering Department got a generous donation of $44 million. The University is probably going to be spending it on boring practical things, like infrastructure, but Blog would like to remind the Corporation that this is Brown—incubator of crazy, innovative, and not-necessarily-feasible ideas. Thus, we present a list of suggestions of what we’d do with $44 million and faculty doing awesome research.

1. Martian Housing

I mean, we already have professors who send robots to Mars. How hard could building a new dorm on the Red Planet be? This could be for the students who really, really want to study abroad. Besides, it couldn’t be a worse trip than going to Perkins.

2. Weather Machine

Of course, there are the practical applications, such as global climate change, and professors here are doing really cool work on that. But really, that’s missing the bigger picture: Never a rainy Spring Weekend ever again. Spontaneous snowball fights in spring. No more freak Halloween snowstorms.

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