Vertra takes Lehigh by Storm

Virtual reality is the future of technology and it is making it’s mark here at Lehigh University. 

We sat down with Alex Spiezio, Asanté Asiedu, and Nick Zambas to talk about their new website (and hopefully soon to be app), Vertra. This website incorporates 360 degree images from around the globe, and you can check out the site here: http://vertra.co.

Here’s what the creators had to say:

(Pictured from left to right: Nick Zambas, Asanté Asideu, Alex Spiezio)

 

What is Vertra?

Alex: Vertra is a software that allows people to access locations from all over the world from any device. Using our website, vertra.co, you can access different colleges, universities, restaurants, and more from the comfort of your living room. Right now our mission is to go to all the off campus places around Lehigh in order to give students a better idea of what they’re going to get when coming here.

Asanté: We just finished Lehigh's on-campus environment. With the addition of off campus restaurants, we’re trying to give the local community the modern updated technology that is presently available.

Nick: Our platform allows one to tour what a city has to offer right from their phone in the most 'real' way possible without having to actually travel anywhere.

 

Why is it important?

Asanté: I think virtual reality is really moving towards the floor plans of technology. People are spending a lot of money on VR right now and if any local businesses or colleges want to continue to prosper, they really need to be able to stay relevant.

Alex: I would have to say Vertra is pretty important to me because as I was a kid, I always hated the fact that I would see pictures of beautiful places from all over that I wasn't actually able to see in real life. Once virtual reality started taking off and we started working with it, we made it our mission to let everyone have that same experience we did when we first looked through those VR goggles.

 

What does it mean for Lehigh?

Asanté: Lehigh would be the first college in the country to have this in depth of virtual reality; to have a 360° view of everything.

Alex: It puts a campus under a microscope like no other software does. This is the first system that allows you to access any building from the inside and outside, including Greek life housing and off campus attractions

Asanté: We included Greek Life, because it allows for a look inside the student community. We’re trying to get as much of Lehigh’s student body involved so that people can really see what we have to offer.

Nick: This means that Lehigh will be the first university to give prospective and even current students the ability to see everything a college and its surrounding city has to offer. 

 

What does it mean to you?

Nick: To us it means that we are helping people from all around the world get a better idea of what Lehigh and Bethlehem are all about.

Asanté: Me, personally, would hope that if this does work we can expand to other colleges and universities. Not only that, but we hope to appeal to small business around the world as well. We’ve talked to a lot of people and many of them have shown interest in this style of advertisement. We feel like we have a real platform for 360° technology and virtual technology that could help users find what they need.

Alex: I touched on this question before, but for me I like the idea of sharing the experience with everyone. Being able to go onto your computer and accessing any city in the world to see what it has to offer is an amazing use of future technology.

 

How did you guys come up with the idea?

Nick: We first came up with the idea in an entrepreneurship course where it began as a virtual reality concert streaming site, but we quickly shifted and decided we'd try and tackle a real problem and make a change rather than just supply entertainment.

Alex: It was actually a long process to get to the point where it is now. In the beginning it was for virtual reality concerts, but over the course of a couple months we felt that just doing concerts  was limiting our possibilities. 

Asanté: We spent most of last summer brainstorming how to organize all that information and that was probably one of the most complicated parts about it. We had to make the display easily functionable but still in depth and that was what made up a lot of the work.

Alex: I would say that was an obstacle. At the time when we were trying to work out this idea, virtual reality was a complex technology. We had to take that and simplify it so that everyone else who wanted to use it could, without even hearing of it before, and that was really tough.

 

What is it like to work on a project with friends?

Asanté: It was a great time. We really figured out the balance necessary to be the most productive with our time.

Alex: The ideas just flow so much easier because we are all on the same page. If one of us comes up with a way of improving something, we don't hesitate to communicate it, refine it, and work on implementing it immediately. 

Asanté: I think it helped that we were working on it with a group of people that we were close to. Even when we had disagreements we were with our friends so we could easily work them out.

 Nick: I love working with good friends. It's definitely hard to disagree with each other at times and to give it to each other straight, but that's how we get better and move forward. I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else.  

 

Is it going to become an app anytime soon?

Alex: The idea was originally to make it into an app and not a website. It wasn’t until about a month ago that we decided to make it that way.

Asanté: We had showed someone the app but they didn’t understand it the way we had hoped. Out of curiosity we tried making it into a website, and from there we realized that was the direction to go.

Alex: Like we were talking about before, we were trying to put too much into such a small space before anyone knew how to work it. This website is a great introduction to our concept before the app is released, and it will provide a solid base to grow from.

 

Vertra creators are also petitioning to have a Chipotle built at the Boyle Construction site across from Sals. Every signature counts! Sign the petition here to help bring a Chipotle to the Southside of Bethlehem: http://lehigh.vertra.co/chipotle

 

 

Check out some pictures from Vertra: