VR @ Brown 2021

Laila Gamaleldin, April 2021


As part of my second project, I conducted a survey to get a general sense of VR knowledge, interest, and use on campus. Both faculty members and students were sent the survey.


The survey can be found here. There are slightly separate tracks for faculty and students, but the difference in questions is largely contextual (e.g. 'have you ever taken a VR class' vs. 'have you ever taught a VR class'). The survey was advertised on Today@Brown as well as on social media and to several classes, departmental groups, and research labs. A full spreadsheet of where the survey was sent out can be found here.

In total, 30 people filled the survey out. 21 were students and 9 were faculty members.


Student Results:

Average: 4, Median: 4

Average: 3.86, Median: 4

Note: participants were given the option to pick multiple choices here. This question was left optional so that only those who hadn't been would answer it. Due to technical errors, this question contains answers from 3 faculty members.

Note: participants were given the option to pick multiple choices here. This question was left optional so that only those who hadn't been would answer it. Due to technical errors, this question contains answers from 3 faculty members.

Courses listed by survey responders included:

  • CSCI 1290: Computational Photography

  • CSCI 1430: Computer Vision

  • LITR 0110D(?): Cave Writing

    • Use case: Immersive digital language arts

  • HMAN 1971S: Introduction to iPhone/iPad Moviemaking Using 3-D and 360 VR Comparisons

    • Use case: Viewing 3D and 360 VR media on iPhone

  • AMST 1903I: Museum Histories

    • Use case: Class trip to the YURT

  • MUSC 1205: Reality Remix

    • Use case: Class was dedicated to completing a semester-long project in which students had to create a fully immersive VR experience

None of the respondents used VR collaboratively or for data visualization in their classes.

Average: 3.71, Median: 4

Project and Class Ideas pitched by respondents:

  • Explaining 2D to 3D mapping in computer vision

  • Virtual discussions and lectures

  • Exploring datasets or multidimensional arrays

  • VR anatomy and dissections

  • Virtual labs

  • YURT field trips for intro CS classes

  • Visualizing structures and diagrams

  • Cognitive experiments for neuroscience research

  • More realistic remote learning

  • MCM screenings

  • Class readings in VR

  • VR for architecture classes (both for exploration and for design)

  • Using VR alongside lectures on perception and vision in CLPS classes

  • VR/AR live performances

  • Linking VR with brain-computer interface technology

  • Documenting Brown's campus in VR yearly to show how it changes over time

Faculty Results:

Departments Represented:

  • Computer Science

  • Neuroscience

  • English/Comparative Literature

  • Molecular & Cellular biology

  • Cogut Institute for the Humanities

  • Behavioral and Social Sciences

  • American Studies

  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

  • Visual Arts

Average: 4.11 , Median: 4

Average: 3.56 , Median: 4

Top reasons for not having gone to the YURT included:

  • Not having heard of it

  • Not knowing how to access it

Top reasons for not having gone to the CAVE included:

  • Not having heard of it

  • Not knowing how to access it

Use cases:

  • "museum possibilities"

  • Medical imaging, animation, collaboration in CS137

Note: due to a technical error, only 3 of the faculty participants were able to reach this question

Use cases:

  • "museum possibilities"

  • Viewing dinosaur and human track formation simulations, viewing skeletal animations

Use cases:

  • Viewing 3D and 360 VR media on iPhones

The one respondent who had used VR collaboratively wrote "Used Yurt with Laidlaw and his students, as well as remote colleagues by video"

The one respondent who used VR for data visualization wrote that they made "Discrete element method (DEM) simulations with animated anatomical models"

Potential VR use cases listed by faculty respondents included:

  • Experiment with virtual exhibitions or test designs for exhibitions

  • Primarily exploration of complex datasets, as well as some presentation to non-specialists

  • collaboration on an artistic project at the Cave or the YURT but not as interested in headset-based VR


Some key takeaways included:

  • There seems to be a disconnect between VR interest and knowledge of how to access and use VR. Generally speaking, it seems as though students tend to be more interested but have less knowledge and access whereas faculty members have more knowledge and access but comparatively less interest.

  • The YURT and CAVE seem to be known among faculty members but less so among students. One suggestion brought up by a responder was to take intro CS students on a trip to the YURT. This could be challenging logistically but could be a great opportunity to get students familiar with VR on campus and to have students see a real-world application of the CS knowledge they're gaining.

  • Although VR knowledge among faculty respondents seemed to be higher than among students, some faculty members still cited needing support for their VR ventures or not knowing where to go if they were to potentially want to take on a VR project for their class or research. One potential future project could be to set up a program like the Data Science Fellows program but for VR.

    • There are currently Creative Technology Assistant jobs that students can do which involve VR along with working at the YURT or CAVE. Although those are amazing positions and programs, it seems as though there is a population of students who would be interested in taking on such roles but that feel intimidated due to lack of knowledge. There is concurrently a population of faculty members and researchers who

One thing to note with these numbers and conclusions is that the number of respondents (21 students and 9 faculty members) represented only a tiny sliver of the Brown population. Although respondents come from a wide variety of backgrounds on campus, their experiences are still not representative of the Brown population at large. Only some Departmental Undergraduate groups dispersed the surveys, and so students from those departments were more likely to be represented in the sample. The same goes for the classes who gave it out. Members of those classes share some academic interests based on their being in the same course. Finally, it's likely that those who opted into taking the survey did so due to some prior interest or experience with VR, making it possible that the VR interest and experience captured by the survey is higher than that of the general Brown population.