Tracking how the virtual world affects the real one
Ahn also directs the lab where students and faculty can get hands-on experience dealing with virtual and augmented reality.
“The reason why communications scholars are interested in communication technology isn’t just because the technology is cool, which it is,” Ahn explains. “It’s because it’s very interesting to see how we—not the technology but the people who use it—decide what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to how we use it.”
For example, now that almost everyone has a smart phone, people often expect almost immediate responses to work emails, even if they are sent outside normal office hours.
In the labs, researchers can experiment with the latest virtual and augmented reality technologies, building virtual worlds and sometimes even physically moving through them using full-body-tracking technology.
“These virtual reality tools are released into the market, and we don’t know how behaviors or attitudes are changed as a result of repeated use, different content, or being exposed to the technology on a daily basis or long period of time,” says Ahn. “All technology needs time and trial and error. That’s what we’re doing here.”