Originally Published: September 14, 2010 9:43 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Liberty Traditional School eighth-graders toured Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and Machu Picchu in Peru, and held planets in their hands - without leaving the Prescott Valley Public Library.
As they conducted "virtual" and "augmented" tours on a 12-foot-wide screen, a camera crew from South Korea's educational broadcasting system - EBS TV - filmed a documentary to be aired in mid-October.
Student Satchel Clifford, 13, of Prescott Valley navigated Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city in the Andes, with a "glove" that served as a mouse.
Satchel was among six students from Liberty Traditional who toured far-away sites from the new virtual reality room in the library.
"It's like being there, and it makes learning about it a lot easier. It is making learning exciting," Satchel said after the session. Satchel, who was born in Phoenix, said Seattle is the farthest he has been away from home.
Classmate Zachary Craner, also 13 and a native of Phoenix, agreed with Satchel.
"It's really cool," said Zachary, who lives in Dewey-Humboldt and has traveled as far from home as Virginia. "You have more time to learn."
The six youths took the virtual tour courtesy of Digital Tech Frontier LLC, a Tempe-based company that supplied the "augmented reality" software.
Company Creative Director Scott Jochim, a world traveler, said he supplied the photos for the virtual reality tour.
"People can create their own virtual environment," Jochim said, describing the interactive aspects of the virtual reality room as being more interesting than attending class.
Jochim said the Korean crew found out about his company while doing a search on the Internet, and he invited them to accompany him to the Prescott Valley library. "The focus of the program is the future of education," said filmmaker Sunah Kim, who is based in New York City. "Our major audience is students."
Kim and her colleagues went about their duties as the students learned about virtual and augmented reality.
With augmented reality, users can see their images on a mirrored screen. Jochim demonstrated the use of a marker, which participants can use to produce onscreen images of things like mountains and planets.
"It is viewed in the real world," Jochim said. "We are augmenting the state of reality."
He cited binoculars as a simpler real-life example of augmentation.
"We are building the Microsoft Word for augmented reality," he said.
Students at Liberty will be able to visit the virtual reality room after school "if they want to enrich a concept in class," Principal Michael DeRois said.
The public may view the technology during a grand opening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at the library, 7401 E. Civic Circle. The event also will coincide with the library's first anniversary.