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Realising Education through Virtual Environments and Augmented Locations

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - REVEAL (Realising Education through Virtual Environments and Augmented Locations)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2018-12-31

State-of-the art Virtual Reality (VR) technologies designed for gaming offer new opportunities for social and economic benefits in their application to education. The REVEAL project has pioneered the use of mainstream PlayStation®VR technologies for innovative educational applications which engage world-wide audiences in the Europe’s rich historical and scientific heritage. Supported by the R&D team at Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), it has actively informed and mapped the processes and technologies required for SMEs to successfully bring new gamified VR applications to Sony’s online PlayStation®Store. The resulting technology and tools provide an infrastructure for creating educational VR experiences and generate new business opportunities outside of traditional gaming activities on the PlayStation®4. In the process the project has created inclusive narrative-driven VR experiences which improve the social and physical accessibility of cultural heritage and contribute to the digital preservation of historical sites.

The consortium has developed new technologies based on the existing PhyreEngine game engine technology. The REVEAL technology supports the easy development of educational virtual reality applications, published through the PlayStation Store and appropriate for use in home, classroom and museum exhibition environments. The technologies have been used to create two case-study example applications, designed and developed through a co-design process involving game developers, educators and heritage sites. The technologies and business processes developed through this process were made freely available to other developers and distributed via the PlayStation DevNet and RAGE developer ecosystems. Two Educational Environmental Narrative (EEN) applications were created are based on different cultural heritage sites from within the consortium. These sites were chosen to contrast different business models and learning outcomes which could be facilitated by the REVEAL project and the EEN applications are now commercially available on the PlayStation Store.

For the first case study, the consortium created an EEN which addresses scientific and cultural heritage within a virtual reality reconstruction of Dr. Jenner’s House Museum and Garden in Gloucestershire in the UK. As the pioneer of smallpox vaccination, Dr. Edward Jenner is considered the father of immunology and responsible for saving millions of lives from a devastating disease shoes effect were felt throughout the world. The Jenner Museum is small, independently run museum based inside Jenner’s original family home, representing an intact cultural heritage site where the VR reconstruction can be facilitated by laser-scanning technology.

For the second case study, the consortium created an EEN which addressed historical and archaeological learning within a reconstruction of the Augustus Forum in Rome, built by the first Emperor of the Roman Empire. A world-famous archaeological site, it provides a window into Imperial Roman history, connecting Rome with the entire Roman Empire. CNR-ITABC had previously created full 3D reconstructions of the Forum for the exhibition “Keys to Rome” that was held between 2014 and 2015 at the Imperial Forum Museum. New archaeological and historical discoveries required modifications to that model, which was then used as a starting point for the development of this case study that will involve users in an intriguing story relating to Imperial Rome.

The REVEAL project is funded under the European’s Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, and receives external project support from Sony Interactive Entertainment under the PlayStation First Academic Development Programme. “PlayStation” is a registered trademark of Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. “PS4” and PlayStation VR are trademarks of the same company. All titles, content, publisher names, trademarks, artwork, and associated imagery are trademarks and/or copyright material of their respective owners. All rights reserved.
During this 2-year project the consortium has successfully designed and developed the underlying technologies and frameworks for implementing EEN games using the PhyreEngine. These were used to create the complete first case study application ("The Chantry"), which was published on the PlayStation Store in September 2018. Development of the second case study application ("A Night in the Forum") is also complete, and will be published on the PlayStation Store in March 2019. "The Chantry" was exhibited at the international Museums and Heritage Show at Olympia (London) in May 2018. Both "The Chantry" and the "A Night in the Forum" demo were exhibited at the prestigious EU Digital Assembly event at the National Palace of Culture in Bulgaria at the end of June 2018. In November 2018 it was presented at the European Parliament as part of an exhibition of exemplary projects using technology for social good. The Chantry game won the 6th International Educational Games Competition at the 2018 European Conference on Game-Based Learning and was shortlisted for Best Educational Game at the 2018 TIGA (The Independent Game Developer Association) awards. The Steel Minions Game Studio, who developed the game were also shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for “Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration based on their work with Sony Interactive Entertainment in 2018.
REVEAL has developed an innovative virtual reality locomotion technique specifically designed for novice audiences. Counter to existing research on motion sickness in virtual reality, REVEAL's researchers discovered that short, rapid bursts of movement is less likely to induce feelings of nausea than travelling at normal walking speeds. This was the first time this phenomenon has been examined in an empirical study and it was published and presented as part of the 2018 IEEE VR conference in Reutlingen at the end of March 2018. This technique progresses the state of the art for accessible virtual reality locomotion and has potential impact in a wide range of applications both within and beyond gaming.

Built on top of state of the art game engine technologies, the REVEAL project has helped to test and improve the performance of these technologies with respect to physically-based rendering in VR. These improvements have already fed back into core technologies which are made freely available to other developers for developing similar applications. REVEAL's evaluation tools have also progressed visualisation approaches for behavioural analytics data with respect to game narratives. These are already providing an important extra level of detail for evaluating the educational use of the EEN applications.
The Chantry
The Breakfast Room from The Chantry
A Night in the Forum