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Realising Education through Virtual Environments and Augmented Locations

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VR gaming technologies establish Europe’s rich scientific past and present

An EU-funded project has created virtual reality (VR) technologies to provide new opportunities for social and economic benefits in their application to education.

Digital Economy
Society

Introducing the REVEAL project, Dr Jacob Habgood, reader in game development, Director of the Steel Minions Game Studio and project coordinator, says: “We have been pioneering the use of PlayStation®VR for engaging audiences in Europe’s rich scientific and cultural heritage.” To do this, the project, supported by the R&D team at Sony Interactive Entertainment, worked towards the creation of technologies that support game studios to quickly and economically develop educational environmental narrative games (ENGs) and two commercial case study applications for the PlayStation® Store.

A closer look at the project’s results

The project has created technologies for developing educational VR games and published two complete games on the European PlayStation® Store. ‘The Chantry’ was the first game and tells the story of the life and work of Dr Edward Jenner, the doctor associated with the discovery of vaccination. The second game is ‘A Night in the Forum’ – a story centred on the life and justice in the Forum of Augustus at the beginning of Imperial Rome. “It’s been very gratifying to actually bring products to the market as part of a research project, and – as an innovation action – that was always the intended focus,” reports Dr Habgood. Additionally, the project has contributed to research literature on VR locomotion – technology that enables the movement from one place to another within a VR environment. It further published the results of an empirical study showing that it is in fact possible to design locomotion techniques for VR that move too quickly to induce motion sickness. “That’s quite counter-intuitive as previous academic work has always suggested that motion sickness increases with locomotion speed,” confirms Dr Habgood. However, short, rapid movements of under 300 ms appear to be too quick for the body to experience physical disorientation. Dr Habgood further states: “It really felt like a corroboration of our results when the same effect was exploited in a big title like Doom VFR.” This observation is vital for future approaches to VR locomotion in games.

The challenge of getting the right people to move forward

“Recruiting people with the right technical skills is always a problem in game development, but we were able to draw upon the technical skills of our own student talent pool through the Steel Minions studio at Sheffield Hallam University,” explains Dr Habgood. This challenge was further heightened when their employees were poached into industry jobs over the course of the project. “While this was hard, we were able to continue to offer opportunities to new graduates,” notes Dr Habgood. These graduates are now thriving in industry jobs because of the experience they gained on REVEAL. In the future, “we’d love to make more ENGs and there’s plenty of other great scientists to choose from,” reports Dr Habgood, who adds, “Alexander Fleming, Charles Darwin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Alan Turing would all make great subjects for similar VR experiences.” REVEAL’s partners at the National Research Council in Rome are also planning many more activities in the area of serious games as an outcome of this project. “So, you can expect to see exciting things from us in the future,” concludes Dr Habgood.

Keywords

REVEAL, VR, PlayStation, education, cultural heritage, VR locomotion, gaming, virtual reality, environmental narrative game, VR games

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