Vertra was recently launched by two seniors, Asante Asiedu and Nick Zambas. It gives prospective students a chance to see what it would be like to walk through Lehigh's campus, including academic buildings, labs, and greek houses. (Courtesy of Vertra)

Student-created virtual reality app lets prospective students see 360 degrees of Lehigh

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Vertra is a new virtual reality app that allows potential students to take a complete tour of campus right from their homes.

Asanté Asiedu, ‘17, Nick Zambas, ‘17, and Alex Spiezio, ’18, created Vertra with the help of the Baker Institute. It takes viewers all throughout campus, shows Greek houses, and even allows them to see popular off-campus spots. The app contains 360-degree images that make the user feel as if they were standing in the middle of campus.

Vertra is easy to navigate with categories viewers can choose from. There are arrows that take them along a path through campus as if they were on an actual tour. Viewers may also choose to go directly to a specific building.

The app arose from a group project for an entrepreneurship class taught by professors Joshua Ehrig and James Peterson. The project was originally going to be on virtual reality concert streaming, but the creators wanted to make a product people would need instead.

They thought of high school students applying to college who would need to see a campus.

“You’re only on a tour for an hour or two and not everyone has the luxury of visiting every school they want to see, especially if they live far away,” Asiedu said.

Apps such as Vertra are a more economical option for both academic institutions and prospective students. Lehigh has two recruitment programs where they pay for visiting students’ travel accommodations: Diversity Achievers Program and Diversity Life Weekend. Neither party would have to pay for expensive plane tickets with the use of virtual reality.

Vertra’s creators hope to give potential students a fuller experience than what they might experience on a standard campus tour. There is a path that leads up the Hill where every Greek house can be seen. Individual houses also have their social media links and quotes in order for high school students to get a better feel of what each organization stands for.

The product was made with comfort in mind as all the photos were taken reasonably at eye level. Obtaining all the photos that were needed to create the tour wasn’t difficult and was a relatively quick process. Asiedu said the most difficult process was planning the path the user would take.

“We went inside buildings that students would need to be more familiar with, like the libraries and Packard,” Asiedu said.

Asiedu and Zambas have confirmed they are meeting with the Office of Admissions in regards to the office using the app as another tool for prospective students.

“Admissions reported being very impressed with the app and are enthusiastic about sharing it with prospective students through social media and other outlets,” said Lori Friedman, the director of media relations, in an email.

The group hopes to expand and create similar products for other universities. They have contacted 14 other institutions that may want begin including Vertra as part of their recruitment process. So far, one has responded.

They have yet to include dorms in their tour as they need student permission to photograph rooms. They feel a lived-in room would give a more comfortable feel rather than a stock photo with bare Lehigh-supplied furniture.

“With the launch of Vertra, we should be able to work with Admissions to help introduce those students to Lehigh in a way that works for them,” Asiedu said.

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