An End to Virtual Reality?

It’s a little shocking, to say the least, that the end of this is approaching so quickly, but it’s far from being over as there’s so much left to learn. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve worked closely with faculty advisor Dr. James Lawler researching some of the many educational virtual reality applications that are out on the market. Ultimately, most, if not all, the applications that we test on students will be implemented into a classroom for students with special needs. These past few months have been incredibly eye opening as I delved much deeper into the world of virtual reality. I had only ever used a VR headset for the first time when I met with faculty at the AHRC Middle/High School and it was only a snippet of students’ learning experience in the classroom. For the first few moments, I found myself standing in reality only to find myself standing under water the next watching as a whale swam over my head.

After reviewing the extensive collection of educational VR apps on gaming platform Steam, the Oculus Rift store, and Viveport, we were able to narrow down the applications that will be used in the upcoming weeks to test on students. As our control group, we will be using 24 Pace students and our main focus will be a group of 24 students with special needs. Both groups will be able to get the chance to use the apps that we have chosen on two different VR devices, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, respectively. Listed below are the three applications that we are ecstatic for students to test out:

1. 3D Organon VR Anatomy:

3D Organon VR Anatomy allows individuals to learn about human anatomy with over 4,000 realistic anatomical models/structures with text descriptions per body structure. Bones, muscles, vessels, organs, and other anatomical structures can be manipulated in 3D space. Structures can be examined from all angles, and individuals can delve into the body systems, peek under the skin, and see what we are really made of.

2. Star Chart:

Star Chart offers users a VR planetarium allowing them to explore the solar system and night sky in an accurate real-time simulation. It includes an accurate real-time simulation of visible stars and planets while viewing them from Earth, a 3D solar system to explore, which includes the Sun, planets, major moons, and more, a Sky View mode that recreates a view of the night sky based on personal GPS coordinates, and much more.

3. Ocean Rift:

Ocean Rift is the world’s first VR aquatic safari park. Users are able to explore a vivid underwater world full of life that includes dolphins, sharks, orcas, turtles, sea snakes, rays, manatees, sea lions, whales, and even dinosaurs. It features 12 habitats for users to explore. Environments may range from coral reefs, mangrove swamps and shipwrecks, the deep sea, Arctic, and Atlantis. There is an education mode that can be activated to learn more about the animals that users come across and over 40 fully narrated information points to find.

We’re very much looking forward to the students testing these applications out for the first time, especially those who have never been exposed to virtual reality before.

While there is an extensive number of applications on the market, searching for educational apps that will enable students to grasp difficult concepts such as the human body and oceanography was difficult to do so. We ran into a few pitfalls along the way when we discovered that not every single application that we were interested in testing was compatible with the two devices that we had decided to focus on. That one issue alone had truncated the list of apps that we had initially to just a few. Making a decision on what to use was also quite difficult because we did not want to utilize applications that were difficult to use or did not provide enough of a learning experience for students.

Following the months that have gone by, I don’t think I would have ever taken the time to study and learn about virtual reality had it not been for this research experience. I had always known about VR and how it was making a significant impact in the world of technology, but I didn’t know that the impact went as far as helping individuals in an educational setting. It was very eye opening to be able to get up close and personal as I watched students using a VR headset and enjoying all that it had to offer. To individuals like you and I, it may not seem like much, but to other students with disabilities, being able to learn in such a creative manner is such an amazing experience. With this new knowledge, I know that I want to continue pursuing research in virtual reality and all that it has to offer if it’s going to be as important as something like artificial intelligence.

Trekking Through the World of Virtual Reality

For the past few months, I have immersed myself in a world of nonstop virtual reality and all the wonderful software available. Because this first semester was merely for me to familiarize myself with virtual reality, there isn’t much quantitative data that can be provided at the moment. All experimentation will be conducted in the Spring of 2018. While there aren’t numbers that can be mentioned, there certainly are innovative VR applications that can be. My research this semester primarily focuses on educational apps for students with disabilities. With this guideline in mind, I was able to work around the limited number of educational apps that were offered on a limited number of platforms.

Since I am only interested in the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, finding apps are much more difficult when limiting myself to these two VR headsets. My search started from the Oculus app store onto Viveport and even to the online gaming platform many know and love, Steam. After searching through hundreds of apps, I’ve listed a few that I thought would not only be interesting to use in a classroom setting, but also for anyone to experience, because after all VR is known for the immersive experience.

1. YOU by Sharecare:

YOU by Sharecare is a real-time simulation of the human body. It allows anyone to navigate and explore an anatomically accurate 3D model of the human body, its organs and, and their functions. You are able to visualize how your body works, customize physiology, and simulate diseases.

2. theBlu:

theBlu by Wevr is an immersive experience that allows audiences to explore and bask in the wonders of the ocean through different habitats and are able to encounter beautiful underwater species on the planet. The experience includes three episodes: Whale Encounter: An undersea encounter with the largest species on earth, Reef Migration: Witness the magnificence of an undersea migration on the edge of a coral reef, and Luminous Abyss: Venture into the deepest region of the ocean to discover the iridescent abyss.

3. Lifeliqe VR Museum:

Lifeliqe VR Museum by Lifelique Inc. is an interactive experience that allows teachers and students to learn K-12 science in an exciting and immersive way. There are 10 categories of 3D models that cover Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science or Math. Lifeliqe’s immersive learning experience empowers teachers and can help students visualize scientific concepts and environments that typically are not accessible.

These three apps genuinely piqued my interest while conducting research specifically because when I had spoken to educators who worked with students with disabilities, they had mentioned that students typically had a difficult time grasping concepts. With these apps and their immersive experiences for students and educators alike, they are a great way to help students visualize and put words into pictures to help them better understand difficult or confusing concepts. What I noticed and found rather interesting was that a majority of the educational VR apps out there were particularly focused on the sciences. When trying to look for mathematics or history, the number of those apps were slim to none. At some point I questioned why there were so few educational apps as well, but then remembered that perhaps it was the fact that virtual reality is still a rather new technology just like artificial intelligence that is going through a developmental phase. At the end of the day, I’ve learned just how difficult it really is for educators to be able to find VR software that really is educational and beneficial for their students. I’m looking forward the continuing on my virtual journey and hope to see more progress in my research as time goes on.

Virtual Reality for Middle / High School Students with Disabilities

Hi everyone!

My name is Vivian Ng and I am a sophomore studying computer science here at Pace University. For the upcoming academic year, I will be working with Dr. James Lawler and the AHRC Middle/High School (MHS) on an in-depth research project focusing primarily on virtual reality and how it is able to benefit people, specifically students, with disabilities. Before I go into more detail about the project I wanted to speak about what AHRC NYC does exactly. AHRC is one of New York City’s largest non-profit organizations dedicated to helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They offer a variety of programs and services tailored to meet people’s specific needs.

My goal for the year is to conduct research on a variety of VR applications which correspond to AHRC’s curriculum. After researching them, I will personally be testing and learning how to utilize them on a VR headset (specific headset TBD). The main objective of this project is for the applications to be implemented into AHRC’s classrooms. The purpose for all the researching and testing is to ensure that AHRC’s students will be able to utilize the applications in order to learn and understand abstract concepts and subjects which they would not have been able to without the use of VR.

As a computer science student, it is always exciting when I get the opportunity to learn about technology that I have never worked with before. This research project piqued my interest from the moment I learned that I was going to be working with virtual reality. I hope to learn a great deal about virtual reality and its applications in not only a classroom setting, but the real world as well. I hope to come out of this project with kore knowledge about VR and its applications, how to properly work and use a VR headset, and overall, I wish to familiarize myself with and learn from people with disabilities.

Because this is my first opportunity working with VR, a lot of my time has been/will be dedicated to researching and reading up on the variety of VR headsets that are currently on the market such as the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, the Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard and a myriad of others out there. Currently, I am in the midst of reading Learning Virtual Reality: Developing Immersive Experiences and Applications for Desktop, Web, and Mobile by Tony Parisi, an informative book that breaks down most of the basics of VR for someone even as inexperienced with VR technology as me. With all this information, I will ultimately pick out VR applications to do extensive research on in hopes that they will later be incorporated into AHRC’s classrooms for their students. I look forward to updating everyone as I venture on in my research journey!