Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Interactive on-line simulated radiopharmacy laboratory 1

The VirRAD 3D Lab provides a simulated Laboratory that allows members of the radiopharmacy community to perform radiopharmaceutical experiments in a 3D virtual environment. The Virtual Laboratory supports all the basic actions that can take place in a real Laboratory through a friendly-to-use and simple but realistic user interface. 3D Lab users are able to interact not only with the equipment provided in the Virtual Laboratory, but also with other users that can participate in the same space. In addition, through communication and collaboration channels the users are motivated to work together to obtain a higher level of understanding.

Within this Laboratory, learners are represented by 3D avatars that can experiment on radiopharmacy, equipment by carrying out specific learning scenarios. The Laboratory tries to simulate not only the spatial model of a real radiopharmacy Laboratory but also the actions that take place in such an environment. Furthermore, avatars and avatars' gestures, functions such as perception, localization, identification and visualization of these actions have been fully exploited.

The user can access the Virtual Laboratory in (a) standalone mode to carry out specific radiopharmacy scenarios; (b) the multi-user mode where individuals can meet mentors and/or other learners; and (c) to carry out specific radiopharmacy scenarios in learner modelling mode where assistance is offered to the learner by informing them of major and minor errors. In the study mode the user can interact with the environment without the presence of other users; whilst in the multi-user mode the user can see other users that are present and interact with them by gestures, text chat, audio chat.

By using the arrow buttons of the keyboard the avatar can navigate within the virtual environment to carry out specific radiopharmacy scenarios and activate and manipulate objects within the Laboratory. Each object has its own range of movements controlled by the right mouse click; this generates a menu that contains a list of possibilities to activate the object. If the user chooses an incorrect action a warning message appears on the screen. This functionality indicates that the virtual laboratory environment surpasses the framework of a native environment and is characterized by the interaction between the end user and the system.

Special attention in the design of this Virtual Laboratory has created an easy and friendly interface that can be used by anyone. The Project has gained general experience in designing and creating low-polygon 3D environments, namely objects, texturing and animation for use in Realtime 3D engines, in particular for the Macromedia Director Shockwave 3D technology. This is currently being used in an Austrian Project "The Perception Laboratory". It was found that there are particular limitations in the distribution of the 3D Laboratory over the Internet and its usage by browser / plug-in technology. Within the UK, the courseware and VR lab will be used to deliver a part of the MPharm and post-graduate diploma Radiopharmacy courses at King's College, London in future years. At the time of reporting, discussions are underway with a private Greek School to exploit 3D multi-user technology in secondary education to enhance collaborative e-Learning as well as being used to Train the Trainers. In addition, the Virtual Laboratory facility has now been integrated into the undergraduate program at the University of Alberta, Canada, Faculty of Pharmacy. Similarly the facility will be incorporated into radiopharmaceutical courseware in nuclear medicine programmes in Belgium and Portugal.
Whilst the VirRAD Project has only been used within the framework of radiopharmacy, the concept of virtual reality environments has potential in other areas of education for medics and professionals. For instance, dentistry or other dangerous environments such as encountered in the oil and gas industry and in military training could be explored in virtual space as a prelude to on site training.

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Reported by

Cancer Research UK
Department Nuclear Medicine, St Bartholomews Hospital
EC1A-7BE London
United Kingdom