By: Jason Rantala
Imagine a fully immersive video experience... think Xbox meets laser tag.
While that may sound fun, this virtual lab also offers up real life applications.
The MIRAGE Lab at Iowa State University was originally built by the U.S. Army to help with combat scenarios, but that's not all it can do.
"It's very easy to get lost in the game," said Lab Volunteer Anthony Civitate.
MIRAGE, Or Mixed Reality Adaptive Generalizable Environment, is part real-life, part virtual, with its giant video screens combined with real life walls, hallways, virtual characters and sensors that track every movement to the nearest millimeter.
"Compared to video games it's a very first person experience," said Civitate.
"Anything in this world that you need training or where your whole body is involved and there's a group of people, this is the perfect research facility to figure out the best way to do that," said Associate Director Stephen Gilbert with the Virtual Reality Applications Center.
The lab's main program is a virtual checkpoint scenario, where participants stand guard as soldiers and evaluate computer-generated people passing through.
"I can train you with a computer, I could train you with a video game or TV screen, but that's not as good if you have to get your whole body involved," said Gilbert.
The ability to use your whole body has also allowed for many other uses for the lab.
John Deere has used the lab to test new farm equipment with the virtual simulator.
Physical training and first responder training are two activities they plan on doing in the near future, with the goal to see how closely the lab can replicate real life.
Right now, those with the lab say the virtual bodily immersion is realistic, but they're currently trying to improve the sound experience.