I found myself in cavernous library, when the guys from YouVisit let me try out their new trick. It was disorienting at first. I'd only peered in an Oculus Rift once before, and there was a small audience of writers from other publications there to witness the weird face I was about to make. But when I pulled the ski goggle-like device onto my face, I disappeared to a cool, dark room in New Haven, where I was looking at one of the original publications of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was thrilling in the nerdiest of ways.


Without even thinking about it, my mind took me back to the Packard Bell computer in my parents' house, where I applied for college. We lived in rural Tennessee, where a 14.4k modem and lots of patience for page load times were as close as I was going to get to the quaint brick buildings of the liberal arts colleges in New England, where I hoped to go to school. I did the crappy virtual tours and crashed Internet Explorer a bunch of times. I ordered the prospective student guide and gawked at the glossy photos. My parents always said that I'd have to figure out how to pay for college on my own, and the money I made washing dishes was never going to add up to a ticket to Connecticut.

Yesterday, when I was standing in the middle of Yale's campus—while actually standing in the middle of a conference room in New York City—YouVisit's proposition made immediate sense, beyond just a gimmick. A feature like this could really help young high school students, especially those in remote locations, get a feel of what it's like at the school of their choice. It's extra helpful for the kids who won't ever get a chance to visit.


But it's also a little bit lofty. YouVisit says that several colleges are securing Oculus Rift development kits of their own so they can send the headsets out with admissions officers on recruiting trips. Just imagine the clusterfrak that ensues when they post up in some high school library, and the kids line up to play with the cool gadget. Heck, you should've seen the smack of anticipation on my colleagues' faces, when we were waiting to try out the virtual campus tours ourselves. It's hard to reconcile the extent to which I was impressed by the technology and compelled by what it showed me.

I didn't expect to be startled by the experience, but I was. I was immediately imagining all of the other things people would want to tour in virtual reality. Indeed, YouVisit has been working with Fortune 500 companies and the Central Park Conservancy on Oculus-powered tours. They say their camera crew is efficient enough to go and shoot pretty much any location in a matter of hours. It's only a matter of time, I think, before Americans can strap an Oculus Rift to their head and float down the canals of Venice.


Walking back to the office after my brief tour of Yale, slightly motion sick, I felt wistful. College was fun. Books are great. Green-grassed quads are incredible. Maybe I should go back to school. But where would I go? What would I study? College was fun. Maybe I could just do that again.

I like that feeling. I like it when technology creates a new kind of experience, when it makes you wonder about your life. Everybody knows Oculus Rift is amazing. I just can't wait to see companies like YouVisit live up to all of its lofty potential.