The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Archive: 20/06/2019

The UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab (DML) recently supported Edwood Brice ’19 in his research on using virtual reality (VR) “exergaming,” or exercising through gaming, as an appealing alternative to traditional forms of exercise.

As detailed in his Commonwealth Honors College thesis, Brice measured step count and intensity of traditional physical activities like body weight squats, elliptical, and walking against those of three virtual reality games with comparable movements: Hot Squat, Fruit Ninja, and Tilt Brush by Google. He used the HTC Vive VR system available in the Digital Media Lab to conduct this experiment.

Brice concluded that although traditional physical activity was objectively more intense and generally produced higher exertion rates, exergaming was a preferred option for over half his participants and remains “a viable form of physical activity, easier to conduct and may be more enjoyable than [traditional physical activity] for college students.”

“Edwood’s work is a critical step forward for the use of VR as a way to promote health, especially as VR devices become untethered and take advantage of the upcoming 5G network infrastructure,” says Dr. Steve Acquah, Digital Media Lab coordinator. “At that point, VR would evolve into the tool we have been waiting for. The DML was able to provide the VR equipment and space to support his research.”

The Digital Media Lab currently offers immersive VR experiences in a dedicated space on Floor 3 of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library. The setup is open for reservations for all UMass Amherst UCard holders, including faculty and staff, from any major or department.