Kansas State University: One Year with VisionPort
It has been almost a year since Kansas State University brought the VisionPort platform into their Hale library. I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Jeff Sheldon, Associate Director of the Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab, to discuss how the school has been using the platform.
It’s no surprise to hear that the Architecture, Planning and Design (AP) students have taken to VisionPort immediately. Being originally designed around displaying geographic information system (GIS) data, the platform allows users to fly over and through city streets and see buildings in 3D, as well as travel around the world looking for areas of possible real estate development. Many of our clients also use VisionPort to give panoramic, three-dimensional tours of building interiors, to show future tenants properties right from their office and brainstorm design possibilities.
In addition to the AP Design students, VisionPort has found itself being used to immerse students in their education with an incredible National Geographic presentation that features 360° videos including swimming with sharks and getting up close to sea lions and elephants in their natural habitats, as well as presentations about the moon landing, and even the reconstruction of the Hale library after a fire in 2018.
An extremely innovative application KSU has come up with is using the VisionPort system to create a quiet space for students. During exam weeks, the platform is used to create a calming environment, displaying relaxing scenes to help students alleviate stress and promote good mental health.
“Ultimately, people don’t expect this sort of device in a library and VisionPort has helped change the longstanding narrative that a library is just about books.”
It’s always great to hear about VisionPort being a catalyst for collaboration among students and faculty. Students are encouraged to work together to bring their projects to life on VisionPort and share tips and tricks they’ve learned by working with our content management system.
End Point Dev: How has VisionPort aided the evolution of the Hale Library?
Jeff Sheldon: VisionPort, as a feature of the new Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab in Hale Library, has helped evolve the University’s library space in several ways. As a visualization tool, VisionPort allows our students, faculty, and visitors to experience rich immersive presentations in a way they haven’t before. Featuring the same Google products we see in classroom instruction, at scale and in high resolution, also affords students an unexpectedly different perspective from what they experience more traditionally on a small screen or in washed-out projections. This has been especially valuable amidst the pandemic, which has transformed expectations to the virtual almost as a default.
Ultimately, people don’t expect this sort of device in a library and VisionPort has helped change the longstanding narrative that a library is just about books.
What types of presentations have students and faculty been creating with VisionPort?
The presentations our students and faculty have been most excited about feature video across our entire 7-panel display and 360° integration for photos and videos. Some have experimented with data visualization and location-to-location journeys, but an overwhelming number have been drawn to the simple navigation controls to use locations and sites as visual aids during group presentations and as a complement to other examples they wheel in.
What are some ways in which Google Earth is being utilized with VisionPort?
Google Earth’s ability to roll onto the screen and zoom into specific locations has the effect of taking viewers on a journey. You can read that in the faces of those watching as a destination unfolds or the promise of a demonstration materializes in front of a tour group. We have quite a few guests visit their hometowns to reminisce and share stories with others, access remote sites to plan for travel, wander the streets of historic figures, and to experience the cultural and socioeconomic influences on a community.
What content on the VisionPort have students been most excited about?
That’s a tough one to narrow down. There have been a few unexpected moments during some of our featured 360° videos where a visitor will turn the camera view around and be charged by an elephant or sniffed by a lion. Seeing such an experience result in a yelp or jump is thrilling.
What fields of study are being presented most frequently?
Kansas State’s Architecture, Planning and Design (AP Design) students are regulars, but we’ve also fielded student presentations from our history and language departments. A number of ad-hoc classes have worked on presentations as well, but there are many curious about the act of how to visualize and present data to different audiences and who enjoy the process of exploration, but aren’t always looking to produce a specific outcome to share. We create accounts for those students to access the system and learn from their peers and the stock examples.
How are panoramic images being used on the VisionPort?
We’re very interested in panoramic and 360° images for the sake of storytelling. One example has been to tell the history of Hale Library in the aftermath of the 2018 fire it endured. Another has been to show the ruins of culturally significant sites some of our students have visited. We’ve also worked with faculty members to produce wellness videos during exam weeks, such as a calming aquarium or nature scene.
We are always happy to hear first-hand experiences universities are having with the VisionPort platform and we are honored to be able to contribute to the education experience.
Thank you to Mr. Sheldon for the great meeting. We look forward to hearing how KSU innovates with VisionPort over the next year!