Remember the scene in The Matrix when Keanu Reeve’s character learns martial arts in a virtual world?
The movie industry tends to show learning in the future as an ultra-realistic, immersive, and immediate process. While it’s still a challenge to achieve such sophisticated solutions portrayed in movies, both industry and academia are catching up.
One example is the head-mounted display Oculus Rift that allows users to immerse themselves in a virtual reality and to look around in the virtual environment with simple head movements. Technology like data gloves and treadmills provide further interaction and exploration on their own terms without external distraction – virtual objects can be pushed and grabbed to influence the surrounding area.
Using the resources available at the Hub for Immersive Visualisation and eResearch (The HIVE), Dr Torsten Reiners and his team have started to explore virtual realities for education and training, allowing students to experience potentially dangerous environments and workplaces firsthand. For supply chain management students, it’s important to understand the inherent risks of hazardous environments such as warehouses and shipping container yards.
Dr Reiners is not one to shy away from the uncomfortable. He notes the importance of students failing. In the case of virtual reality scenario training like those provided using the Oculus Rift, Dr Reiners notes that it’s important that their character can die in the virtual environment. This teaches the student the real-life risks inherent in certain work environments without the actual experience of becoming injured on the job.
Dr Reiners believes that the next step for education is to add supplementary gamification to the coursework – in other words, to incorporate virtual games where the student must apply the principles they have learnt in traditional classroom environments in order to complete the game or move on to the next level.
The technology will increase the ‘authenticity’ of the learning experience. Students will be able to walk around a shipping container yard and to pick up and operate machinery and solve problems with on-site hazards. This makes them doubly-ready to encounter the same scenario in the real-world because they have, to a certain extent, seen and solved these problems before.
“The experience is personal,” says Dr Reiners “It’s you in there.”
See The HIVE in action
Want to check out The HIVE?
Come to one of the guided tours at this year’s Open Day, Sunday August 3rd, 10am – 4pm