SF State mixes virtual reality and physical fitness


Professor Marialice Kern boxes with a virtual reality device in the Gym SF State on Monday, September 4, 2017. (Bryan Ramirez/Golden Gate Xpress)

Video games at SF State are getting an upgrade to its playtime and are in the preliminary stages of sending a dose of virtual reality (VR) into the realm of physical fitness on campus.

Lecturer and research assistant Dulce Hiraci Gomez of the kinesiology department said after one year of research with her associates William Parfet and Aaron Stanton, VR prototypes are almost ready to be accessible to Gator students.

The prototypes are currently stashed inside the Gym Building in room 111.

[/media-credit] Professor Marialice Kern poses for a portrait with a virtual reality device used in the Gym SF State on Monday, September 4, 2017. (Bryan Ramirez/Golden Gate Xpress)

“The plan is for us to hopefully have these VR equipment showcased in the new Mashouf Wellness Center for students so they can play games and use it for exercise,” Gomez said. “We first want to incorporate the VR equipment into gyms and see if it can make it to the Wellness Center later in the future.”

Gomez completed her master’s degree in kinesiology at SF State last semester and is currently teaching a laboratory course surrounding the physiology of exercise.

Gomez said all her research over the past year has seriously opened the door for SF State to showcase some VR equipment for students to use very soon.

In fact, Gomez said her colleague William Parfet, an SF State graduate, has been working very closely with VR and video games the past year.

“It’s really cool how this is the first study of its kind in the U.S., and that SF State has the opportunity to be the frontrunner in this niche field that has so much potential,” Parfet said. “I think the cool thing about this is up until now, the technology wasn’t there to study games and exercise, however, VR is a whole new ballgame because you’re not just playing the game, you’re in the game.”

However, for all this to happen and make the VR equipment accessible to the Wellness Center depends on the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

The IRB determines tests and data to be published and out in the public sector, as opposed to private institutions.

[/media-credit] Professor Marialice Kern boxes with a virtual reality device in the Gym SF State on Monday, September 4, 2017. (Bryan Ramirez/Golden Gate Xpress)

The IRB is an administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the institution with which it is affiliated.

Gomez said during the time that she and Parfet were researching and awaiting approval, her mentor, Aaron Stanton, created a website informing people of the different types of VR options there were.

“Aaron and I began collaborating after he sent us a demo and all this equipment and said he wanted all this testing done on it,” Gomez said. “When I saw the equipment I just knew people would be interested.”

Gomez said the website Stanton created is the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Fitness.

And since working with SF State, the kinesiology department and with Dulce, Parfet said he and others are very excited to see how far SF State will go with the new equipment.

I am very excited to see where the future of VR gaming and exercise are going while Dulce and the VR lab work with Aaron,” he said.

Department chair of kinesiology Dr. Marialice Kern agreed and said, “Our hope truly is one day to have this VR equipment accessible in the Mashouf Wellness Center.”