Can Hollywood-backed VR company make Science Lab more effective?

As the professors at Rizona State University are redesigning the professor lab unit for a biology course, students are getting advice from Steven Spielberg and other Hollywood veterans on how to build an emotional relationship with students with a fictional “frog-cat”.

The university is producing course materials as part of a partnership with a VR entertainment company called Dreamscape Immersive, led by Walter Parks, who produced Hollywood blockbusters including “Men in Black”, “Minority Report” and “Gladiator”. And access to this experimental biology lab will help create parks Students need to strap on a VR headset – and suspend distrust.

Leaders of the effort showcased their new VR classroom at the ASU GSV Summit in San Diego last week, solicited feedback to improve content and try to create discussion for their new Joint venture, Which eventually hopes to sell the material to other schools and colleges.

Six desks were arranged in a circle in the demo classroom set up in the exhibition hall of the conference. While each participant sat at a desk, the attendants helped them wear a powerful VR headset and a plastic sensor on each arm. A joystick that could be used for a flight simulator sat on each table.

“If you have an item on your desk, make sure you remove it before you start,” the staff member warned us to sit all over the place. Otherwise, you may accidentally knock them while the VR headset is on, because “you can’t see them in the virtual world” (because wearing a headset means turning off the “real world” completely.)

Once the gear was done, we felt like an outtake scene from the movie Jurassic Park. Each student was running a small flight research pod through the “Alien Zoo” of fantasy animals. As I turned my head, the scene matched where I was looking and I could see the other five students in their flying pods – and at one point I bumped into one of them and pushed me back a bit.

The premise is that students are researchers of the fictional “alien sanctuary for endangered species of galaxies” and need to collect data on the species of animals they find. One of those species is the frog-cat, and in fact a narrator’s voice explains that a young frog-cat at the zoo is behaving sluggishly. The question that is asked to the participants is, what is wrong with the poor foreigner?

The user is allowed to interact with the world, but everything is highly guided. Participants fly pods with a joystick, but are instructed to follow a set path marked by a floating circle. And when it comes time to analyze a sick frog-cat, users are asked to grab a specific medical device from the menu of choice, but then the user just clicks a button and collects the actual data. It’s like watching an immersive movie where the viewer has to click on “Next” each time and then to continue.

One of the others who went through the demo with me was Junal Alderson Clark, Integrated Curriculum Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education. She has evaluated a lot of other VR applications for education and she was enthusiastic about using this demo. But she said she wished there should be opportunities for more rich interactions at foreign zoos.

“It was really just a push-button-to-go experience,” she said. “Students may have the opportunity to choose the tests that give frog-cats,” she said. “With VR, the great thing is that you can turn that little bean into an A Tardis, And behind them can be a grand laboratory, even if you are in a small pod – you can play with reality.

ASU project leaders say they have heard that feedback and are working to add more interaction as they prepare the rest of the material for the virtual lab.

That development is on the fast track. Lisa Fleischer, senior director of AdPlus, who leads ASU’s online efforts, said the new VR classroom and “Alien Zoo” module are planned to be included in the ASU introductory biology curriculum in the spring semester. That classroom will have two clusters of 12 VR-equipped desks each, so that up to two dozen students can go through the experience at the same time.

And ASU leaders emphasized that each 10-minute series of VR experiments is only part of the lab experience, as students will move away from their interaction with frog-cats with data points and then have to analyze and discuss them with classmates. More traditional class settings.

“When you exit VR, everyone who goes into VR has data that you can download and put into Excel,” explained Mike Angelletta, assistant director of education innovation at ASU. “You have to work in teams and you have to communicate.”

In a public speech at the ASU GSV Summit, ASU President Michael Crow created a personal pitch for the new VR class, arguing that it is hoped that this will help many students succeed in STEM subjects that are challenging for many students.

“We want to dispel the notion that these are difficult courses,” he said. “They’re not hard, it’s hard to teach them.”

“People have been talking about education for a long time – how do you take something interesting that activates some part of the mental process and connects it to education in a meaningful way,” Crow added. “What we’re after is a connection of emotional commitment.”

Parks, led by Hollywood producer Dreamscape Immersive, joined him on stage, arguing that students’ emotional attachment to literature in VR would keep them more engaged than traditional teaching methods.

He said, “The business we are all in is to engage people. “Whether it’s going to VR experience to buy tickets and have fun, or educating people. How do you keep people engaged? ”

Shopping mall original

It’s possible you’ve seen the Alien Zoo VR world before – but without the objectives of science. Because the atmosphere was developed for the entertainment experience available in malls in Los Angeles, Dallas, Dubai and other places. Parks said at the ASU GSV Summit session that he developed the Alien Zoo complex with the help of his friend and former colleague Steven Spielberg.

Alderson Clark, who has taught science classes in schools in the past, said one of the challenges of ASU’s partnership with Dreamscape Immersive will be to ensure that the material is adapted well enough from its roots to make it academically rigorous.

“I think that’s the skin of what they’ve done for the public audience in the mall again,” she notes. “If they want to tie in this story of a foreign zoo, what they mean is really interesting, ‘Well, you’re a new explorer in this new place, and so you can use your biological knowledge to identify whether it’s a mammal, or it’s on Earth. Fits into different categories. ‘They definitely have a statement, but I don’t think they made it in this context. ”

She said she will look into new ventures and is confident that VR will find a place in the classes as it matures.

“I think it’s really interesting because one of the limitations of laboratory work is access to equipment.” “And so if every student can run something back through GCMS [Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy] The device, or you can run all the tests you need in your small virtual-real world, ”he said.

“All new technologies will have a learning curve and a developmental curve,” she added. “I’m delighted to see this partnership grow, but I hope he has teachers at his heart who are able to drive not only the experience but also the rigor behind the experience.”

Angeletta, one of the developers of ASU’s VR Lab Materials, said her goal is to study how well students do in traditional teaching versus new labs, and said the initial test yielded an 18 percent learning benefit.

“That’s what I’m going to sell,” he said. “I’m not going to try to convince people, except to show them the data.”

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