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Collaboration, Industry News, Other, Soft Skills, VR-Related

A Guide to Education in VR

Introduction

Right after telelearning comes learning in virtual reality (VR). And before you say I have Zoom fatigue, we can assure you that this will be different. Rather than interacting with teachers and classmates through a screen, you will feel immersed and engaged in learning. You can have your next science class underwater and learn about the animals swimming around you– All while seeing and hearing your classmates through your headset. VR creates a sense of social presence that telelearning lacks, and a level of immersion that beat in-person classes.

Effectiveness

Experimental learning, simulations, and role-play all have a large place in VR. It is less about passive learning, like listening or reading, and more about active learning, like practice and discussion. With VR learning, your information recall and retention rates will be higher. The benefits of VR usage in classrooms also include raising students’ success and enabling collaboration across remote participants from different backgrounds. Finally, in areas like language learning, VR can help expose students to the language and culture repeatedly, increasing the depth and breadth of practice (VRScout).

Virtual reality promotes learning by doing. Researchers suggest that increased levels of immersive content stimulate multisensory engagement and can ultimately lead to more effective learning outcomes (Webster 2016). As an extension, an experiment conducted with over 1000 undergraduate STEM students found that VR education improved grades by a full letter grade (DeHart, 2018). The improvement is primarily related to increased engagement and motivation. In addition, VR was found to be more effective in improving knowledge compared to non-VR scenarios like simulations or traditional learning (Chen et al.). 

A review found VR education to be particularly effective in STEM, architecture, and medicine, as well as more fundamental skills and knowledge like learning how to organize thoughts (Hamilton et al., 2020). “A relatively small VR device can even act as a whole science lab.” writes Adobe. Think about reduced safety concerns, increased lab capacity, and an end to those nighttime lab sessions. Students are not limited in what they can create, and teachers are not required to have long hours of preparation. And for those who get queasy dissecting a frog, there are simplified simulations.

Accessibility

One way that VR helps level the playing field is by making field trips accessible to all. This is especially relevant for k12 students whose parents often have to pay extra for more engaging learning opportunities (Maristute, 2020). For example, students can travel to recreations of Ellis Island in the 19th century, meet the Egyptians who built the pyramids or go to the moon in a spaceship. Furthermore, many prominent museums and galleries have their exhibitions available in VR for students to explore and interact with at their own pace.

In addition, VR can recreate physically impossible scenarios for students to experience. For example, students can learn history surrounded by the remains of the Acropolis in Athens while conversing with animated gods and goddesses. As a result, VR is spreading among virtual campuses like Edstutia, as well as in brick-and-mortar universities like Harvard University, Nova Southeastern University, and Fordham University.  Some institutions, like Harvard University, have also started giving certifications in VR education to teachers.

Implementation

Just like remote work and therapy have not gone anywhere after the pandemic, remote learning is here to stay, taking education to the next level. In fact, a study published in 2018 that VR technologies are now mature enough to be integrated into education as much as any other computing technology (Elmqaddem, 2018). At Foretell Reality, we provide widespread education solutions, from virtual campuses to small discussion rooms and classrooms just like in a traditional school or university. On top of that, our users can customize their avatars, play games, collaborate on whiteboards, and explore 3D objects with their virtual bodies.

VR during surgery
Industry News, Other, VR-Related

Virtual Reality as an Alternative to Anesthesia and Painkillers

Hospitals across the UK are embracing virtual reality (VR) as a tool for pain distraction during surgery and are finding that the benefits extend even beyond minimizing pain. 

A recent article published in The Irish News takes an in depth look at the impact VR  is making for patient populations. By using VR, the elderly are sometimes able to avoid anesthesia, which can result in serious side effects for older patients, including postoperative cognitive dysfunction. VR is also being used for children, as the sensory experience helps anxious and fidgety young patients to sit still during complicated procedures.  And VR’s benefits extend to all patients as it has been shown to reduce anxiety before, during, and after procedures.  An additional important use is the treatment of chronic pain as an alternative to addictive painkillers, which can result in long-term substance abuse disorder. The article cites a 2020 review from Health Technology Wales, which concludes that VR is actually more effective at reducing pain during and immediately after procedures than standard care, such as painkillers. 

Beyond improved patient care,  hospitals experience the added benefit of reducing overall costs. Anesthesia itself is expensive, and it often requires an overnight stay. Many patients (not just the elderly) are adversely impacted by anesthesia and experience symptoms like vomiting and chills, which extends their hospital stay. 

So why are the VR simulations, from a roller coaster ride to a wildlife safari, so effective? According to Jordan Tsigarides at the University of East Anglia, “VR is immersive. It floods the brain with audio-visual signals, engaging the senses and diverting the brain’s attention from processing pain signals…by putting someone in a situation outside of their normal environment, VR can be relaxing. And if you add in an engaging task such as a game, then it’s not hard to grab their full attention.”

Body transfer
Industry News, Soft Skills, VR-Related

VR Body Transfer for Animal Empathy

As environmental catastrophes are increasing, Daniel Pimentel at the University of Oregon wondered whether Body Transfer using virtual reality (VR) would help humans to identify with other animals and increase the empathy required for strong conservation efforts.  

Body Transfer, sometimes referred to as body ownership, is an illusion that tricks the mind using visual and sometimes haptic input into experiencing the embodiment of another human or animal. Through an immersive 15-minute VR simulation participants in Pimental’s study experienced the plight of an endangered loggerhead sea turtle as it navigated (often man-made) hazards from birth to adulthood, including treacherous obstacles like fishing nets. Participants were given a firsthand perspective through a specially designed chair that mimicked a sea turtle’s paddling posture (they perceived their own arms as flippers), and through haptic vibrations along their spine when they encountered motor vibrations of nearby boats.

Through a series of four experiments, Pimental and fellow researchers concluded that virtual embodiment of a sea turtle can offset compassion fade, which is an inverse relationship wherein empathy actually decreases as the (human or non-human) casualty victim count increases. Moreover, Body Transfer allowed participants to see other turtles in the simulation as part of their in-group, thereby facilitating reciprocal altruism, and that embodiment of the sea turtle increased the threat perception, influencing the amount of money that participants donated to hypothetical conservation efforts. 

Industry News, Soft Skills, Therapy and Support

More Than Meets the Eye: Meta’s Haptic Glove

Virtual reality has traditionally been viewed as a technology that allows users to immerse themselves in computer-generated environments, giving them the opportunity to experience a vast number of scenarios and surroundings. Until recently, VR software only offered the ability to stimulate two senses: sight and sound. Various attachments have attempted to close this gap between fiction and reality by adding a smell or taste component, but the one sense that hasn’t been properly addressed, and is perhaps the most vital to addressing this gap, is touch. Enter: Meta’s haptic glove.

The haptic glove prototype offers the sensation of touching or holding objects in virtual reality. This is achieved with the help of hundreds of actuators – small inflatable motors that mimic the feeling of pressure. Meta is working to improve the functionality of this feature by enabling the glove to detect exactly where you are in a virtual field, how close you are in proximity to an object, as well as the physical properties of various objects. Meta Research Director Sean Keller believes in the large impact this will have: “We use our hands to communicate with others, to learn about the world, and to take action within it. We can take advantage of a lifetime of motor learning if we can bring full hand presence into AR and VR. People could touch, feel, and manipulate virtual objects just like real objects — all without having to learn a new way of interacting with the world.” 

Don’t get too excited though – this glove is years from being market ready. RL Research Process Engineer, Katherine Healy, addresses the manufacturing difficulties Meta is facing, considering the gloves are being individually assembled by skilled engineers. “We use semi-automated processes where we can, but manufacturing these gloves at scale will require the invention of new manufacturing processes,” Healy mentions. Despite these setbacks, VR technology is predicted to become widely accessible in coming years.

Haptic technology isn’t necessarily new to the market, it just hasn’t been widely available to the public, nor has it attracted the interest of people other than serious gamers or movie producers. It’s taken years for the public to welcome the idea that VR technology has more practical uses than just gaming or entertainment. 

Though initial applications may focus on gaming and hard skills training, areas like therapy and support, soft skills training, and real time collaboration will also benefit. With this glove, you’ll be able to realistically manipulate 3D product prototypes, shake hands while practicing mock job interviews, and make realistic, genuine connections with other people through the sensation of touch during therapy and support sessions. 

Foretell Reality is a social VR platform for therapy and support, soft skill training, and real time collaboration. We employ current technologies such as hand tracking and are constantly extending our capabilities to support the latest headsets and accessories. To learn more or schedule a demo, click here.

Industry News, Other

Five Events in October Pushing VR Forward (and the month’s not over yet)

  1. Accenture announces it will purchase 60,000 VR headsets to train new hires.

Why it Matters: More demand for hardware will create more competition among headset manufacturers which will advance innovation.

2. HTC announces release of new immersive glasses for relaxation.

Why it Matters: More affordably priced headsets in the marketplace targeted at specific consumer applications like relaxation will increase adoption among consumers.

3. Facebook announces it will hire 10,000 new employees in Europe focused on building out metaverse.

Why it Matters: With 10,000 employees in the U.S. already working on AR and VR, this is a clear indication that the largest social media company in the world is going all in on a 3D future globally.

4. Magic Leap raises another $500m and reveals Magic Leap 2.

Why it Matters: Having now raised a total of $3.5b, it shows that large investors see augmented and virtual reality as a long term play.

5. Paris Hilton headlines the inaugural Metaverse Festival and embraces the decentralized world of blockchain, Decentraland, and Genies.

Why it Matters: Alternative social VR platforms show that Mark Zuckerburg’s metaverse isn’t the only game in town meaning more choices for consumers, more innovation, and less centralized control.

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