Virtual reality: The next-generation medium

5 May 2016 09:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

Immersive VR Education is an Ireland-based company focused on enhancing and enriching students’ experience using virtual reality (VR). VR, also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it.

Ms Sandra Whelan (Director, Immersive VR Education) opened the discussion by explaining the basics of VR showing how gaming-focused technology can be usefully applied within education. Mr David Whelan (CEO, Immersive VR Education) then provided a brief overview and reasoning for the Apollo 11 VR project.

David demonstrated music’s value in the educational experience with a few audio clips along with insights into how his company re-created the Apollo 11 event. He showed an early prototype of the Apollo 11 VR project and explained the VR industry term ‘presence’, where a person actually feels that they are in the real environment along with the expected emotional responses. The demo showed the deep emotional impact on the users.

David’s next example was a video clip virtual hospital application for the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI). This downloadable application provides students with real-time feedback on their actions during interaction with patients allowing deeper learning.

Sandra described the company’s Lecture VR platform, a social multi-VR platform for consuming educational content. She described traditional teaching methods and the drawbacks and spoke about her company’s new way of teaching where engaging content is delivered to students.

David explained how an immersive effect is applied for various class topics delivered live with Lecture VR and showed the cost benefits of giving all students more experience with the required equipment. He then conducted a live system demonstration inviting volunteers onstage. He instructed the volunteers to draw on the virtual blackboard and later assemble a skeleton. Next he loaded Dinosaur Island, an immersive video example streamed from YouTube.

David invited more volunteers to experience the Mars Rover missions and the depths of the ocean. He explained how to personalise an avatar, an image that represents a player that they can move around the screen. He guided them through the experience. Having fielded the volunteers’ feedback on the strangeness of the immersive experience, David concluded the presentation.

The audience’s questions ranged from VR image quality to the requirement for wearing spectacles with the headset to network capacity required for using the system.

In response to a question as to whether phobias could be treated using the technology, David explained that future hardware and software improvements would improve quality and allow prescription customisation. He gave examples where the technology helped treat phobias and aided PTSD recovery.

In the second session, Ms Janina Woods (Game Designer at Ateo) gave an overview of Ateo’s current projects including a game and short experiences in movies along with medical surgical filming.

Woods described their current work with textile company Lantal, to build a digital configurator for Lantal’s sales staff.

According to Woods, Ateo tries to put everything that makes a game great into the business use. The Ateo tool allows someone to carry the virtual showroom to any location. Woods showed a few examples of how VR helps. She explained that VR does not have to be photorealistic; it just needs to have enough feedback to give the reality of the experience.

Woods described a recent project for learning by experience where people can practice through simulation and learn through routine training. Woods then invited everyone in the audience onstage to experience the showroom.

by Andre Edwards