As a 90’s kid, I grew up with the idea that if I was in Steven Spielberg’s world of “Jurassic Park” I would have done different things than the characters in the movie. I would have overcome the situation just 10 minutes after it all went down because… who is afraid of a giant lizard, right? Not me. However, last week I found out that actually, I would have frozen in front of them so probabilities say that I would have been eaten in about 10 minutes… tops.
How do I know that? Well, I was a part of a virtual reality experiment conducted by Francisco Rosero and David Mayorga for their master thesis in Lund. My colleague’s thesis wasn’t exactly about dinosaurs, it was about new ways of taking advantages of new technologies for Fire Safety Engineering purposes, in this case, virtual reality.
Virtual reality is a technology that uses headsets to recreate different virtual environments resembling any place or situation you want. The basic idea is to help the user to immerse in the scenario completely as they can see all the surrounding in 360 degrees. It has been used for video games (look this cool video of Skyrim) and also to help elderly people to experience being out of the care house, they can “go” to a mountain or “walk” in front of the beach, here is a very touching video of this amazing project.
For fire safety engineering purposes, Francisco and David had different approaches. Francisco for example based his thesis in using virtual reality as a learning tool on how to identify if you can extinguish a fire or if you need to run out of there because the fire is completely out of control. On the other hand, David focused on setting different scenarios of exit signs along a tunnel to know which ones where easier to identify by the users in case of evacuation.
Both thesis had different objectives but in the 2 of them the participants of the experimental phase were thrilled. The details of the fire in Francisco’s scenarios were impressive as while you were standing right next to it you could feel kind of afraid to get burnt with the largest fire scenario. In David’s set up, the details of the tunnel were outstanding, you could think you were inside of the tunnel looking for an exit sign just to get out of there. As a bonus, they also showed a series of pre-stablished scenarios for us to experience a bit more on virtual reality (this is where I discovered my dinosaur phobia)
As first-year students, we are two weeks away from choosing our master thesis topics and with this decision it also comes in which city we´ll spend the 4th semester. A lot of options have been set for us, all of them interesting and applicable to the fire safety engineering field, hopefully all of us will get a topic that make us passionate to be able to develop it in the best possible way, just as Francisco and David did with virtual reality. I can only add, that I am definitely considering making someone discover a dinosaur phobia next year.