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Leading and Preserving Louisiana Through Virtual Reality

By Tatum Comeaux

 

The Roger Hadfield Ogden Leaders Program enables undergraduate students in the Ogden Honors College who possess extraordinary ability, commitment, and imagination to pursue a self-guided project of significance to the state of Louisiana. Students receive up to $5,000 to support self-designed, off-campus experiences, enabling them to pursue a passionate interest, develop independent leadership abilities, and contribute to society in a way and to a degree not otherwise possible.

Paul Cassisa, a junior majoring in finance, is exploring his interests in virtual reality (VR) and Louisiana’s historical sites through his Ogden Leaders project. His project titled Louisiana Preservation Through Virtual Reality brings historically and culturally significant sites in Louisiana to life through immersive tours. Over the summer, Cassisa made 14 tours themed around human interaction with the environment. The sites ranged from a dogtrot in North Louisiana to a rice mill in South Louisiana. All the sites he visited are at least 100 years old, some even predate the Egyptian pyramids.

“I am putting a time stamp on history in a way that books, regular photos, oral history, and paintings cannot ever encompass,” says Cassisa. “The camera lens is 360° so I cannot hide anything from the viewer, they see what I see.”

Cassisa believes projects such as this can be an immensely beneficial learning tool in classrooms across the state. There is a new generation of students that desire to learn through immersive experiences. There are over 60,000 eighth graders in Louisiana studying state history, and instead of looking at pictures in a textbook or watching a low-grade video, the immersive videos Cassisa has created allow students to see the sight as if they were there in real life.

While Cassisa has always seen the value VR offers to viewers who can not tangibly visit sites, he sees an increase in the relevance of VR for professional businesses due to the coronavirus. The largest impact is in real estate, where agents are turning to 360° tours to sell homes. Owners and operators of museums and historical homes have not yet realized the capabilities of 360° video technology, but Cassisa believes his project is changing that. 

“This project is a testament to the Ogden family’s commitment to moving Louisiana forward and serves as a great example as to why the Ogden Honors College is the greatest way to invest in our state. The funding I received for my travel expenses and equipment made this project possible,” said Cassisa. 

Ogden Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle praised Cassisa’s determination and drive. “I have learned to never count Paul out,” he said. “He has a real passion for history, Louisiana, and public service. I think this project is a great combination of all three.” 

You can find out more about his project by going to his YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWEx3LPbquKqcOSO8fAZNrw or by visiting www.vrpreservation.org.