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5:53 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

'Virtual' plans for PV library advance, despite setbacks

PRESCOTT VALLEY - A "virtual" reality room, initially scheduled for when the Prescott Valley Public Library opened this past October, will not become a reality until after the school year resumes.

Town officials faced a setback because Tarek El Dokor left his job as assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott to pursue research and contracts outside academia.

El Dokor played an active role with initial plans to bring virtual reality to the library.

Meanwhile, "virtual" glove equipment arrived at the library Wednesday, said Kim Moon, the town's capital projects coordinator. She said the glove is a device that enables people to interact with a computer and software instead of using a computer keyboard and mouse.

"It's installed," she said. "We have to prepare the content for that room. All (town) departments actually are working on that."

The town bought the equipment from Digital Tech Frontier LLC in Tempe, she said.

The town will cover the entire cost for the system thanks to a $46,938 commitment from Northcentral University in Prescott Valley, Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said.

"We, at the direction of NCU, used their contributions to the town this past year," he said. "NCU and the (library) foundation wanted to dedicate those dollars to the development of a software for the virtual reality room."

He said the town will hire Embry-Riddle students to develop and train for using the virtual reality room.

"It is going to happen," Tarkowski said. "We have abandoned the concept of developing the exclusive software for that room. We will continue to have the contributions from those students."

Lack of exclusivity means the product may be replaced and is easy to maintain, Moon said.

"We are buying something that is already out there," she said.

Moon said the virtual reality room will be the size of a classroom on the first floor of the library and contain three screens.

"The wall is the screen," she said.

She said the room will feature three products: virtual reality, "augmented reality" and "We Can Take You There."

The virtual reality product enables visitors to experience a virtual location, Moon said. It comes with the glove.

"It is sort of like a Hollywood set," she said.

She explained augmented reality enables users to bring objects into their reality.

"You hold in your hand the sun, planets of the solar system, molecules, a beating heart," she said.

The user believes he is or she is working with "everyday objects, but they are three-dimensional and they float in space," said Scott Jochim, creative director of Digital Tech Frontier.

Moon described the third product as being a vacation package, and can include visits to national parks.

"We can create our own virtual tours," she said, adding all the media will be free to the public.

Jochim said, "This allows the transporting of the Internet into physical reality into that room.