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Technology Allows Virtual Tour of Mayan Ruins

Rendering of what students see with Oculus Rift glasses

UF anthropology students are getting a unique opportunity to peer into the past.

This fall, a digital anthropology course will give students the chance to physically explore virtual Mayan ruins using an Oculus Rift headset. The headset will track its user’s location and sync their movements to the virtual world of Cerros, a digitally depicted ancient township. Students can then walk through temples and watch rituals using technology to study a prehistoric civilization in a way books and maps could never do.

Course instructor Jeffrey Vadala originally created a digital rendering of the ruin site for the Florida Museum of Natural History, and then made the design compatible to the Oculus Rift headset. During the spring 2014 term students in his general anthropology course tried it for the first time. Vadala said students expected the experience to be similar to a 3-D movie, but were blown away at how realistic and all-encompassing the simulation was.

“It’s kind of shocking when you put it on,” Vadala said. “Students put it on and go, ‘Oh my gosh, this looks completely different than I expected it to look; this is what’s going on here.’”

To register for ANT3930 – Digital Anthropology in fall 2014 (the only anthropology course offering the Oculus Rift experience) visit the Office of the Registrar website.