Author: Cheryl Eslinger
Virtual Reality is a powerful tool for education since people
comprehend images much faster than they grasp lines of text or
columns of numbers. Participation is critical to learning and VR
offers multisensory immersive environments that engage students
and allow them visualize information.
Training and simulation
Perhaps the most practical use of VR is in training and
simulations. VR simulators are especially useful for training
that would otherwise be too expensive or too dangerous. Different
training scenarios can be constructed and simply altered for
variety. The US Navy uses flight simulators to help train pilots
for general navigation as well as special assignments.
Battlefield simulations have been developed using real data from
Desert Storm [SCHMITZ93]. These types of simulations can be
used for training as well as planning. Distributed simulations
allows users in remote locations to participate in the same
environment. Training tools can also be used for common citizens.
For example virtual cars could be used for driver's education
classes reducing the expense of cars and insurance and perhaps
minimizing costly accidents by inexperienced drivers.
VR offers tools for increased student participation. Classroom
activities will use VR tools for hands-on learning, group
projects and discussions, field trips, and concept visualization
[BRICKEN91]. Traditional teaching involved text, oral and
screen-based presentations which do not use a human's full
capacity to learn. VR allows natural interaction with
information. Instead of reading about foreign places or watching
a videotaped program, students can explore new worlds such as
foreign countries, ancient times or the human body. A current VR
program for seventh-graders lets students act as part of algebra
equations [BYLINSKY91]. VR offers a learning experience that
many children and adults find interesting, thus giving motivation
Telepresence offers remote learning with virtual classrooms.
Students are not limited to classes that are taught at their
school, in their town, or even in their nation. Teleconferencing
has allowed for persons at different sites to form a virtual
classroom with active class discussions. Telepresence has also
allowed for remote students to work together on group projects
which may be an important part of class participation and
Abstract Representation and Visualization
Virtual Reality provides the tools to visualize and manipulate
abstract information, thus making it easier to understand. For
example flows of power and data communications traffic can be
visualized dynamically in three dimensions. NASA has developed a
virtual wind tunnel that allows the participant to use hand
gestures to navigate around the virtual aircraft and view the air
flows. Eastman Kodak engineers gained new insights using a 3D
model showing the interactions of heat, temperature and pressure.
Virtual environments can allow participants to experiment with
physics concepts such as a virtual physics lab that allows
students to control gravity, friction and time.
Bricken, M., "Virtual Reality Learning Environments: Potentials
and Challenges." Human Interface Technology Laboratory,
University of Washington, Seattle, WA: 1991.
Bylinsky, G., "The Marvels of 'Virtual Reality'." Fortune, June
3, 1991. pp. 38-9.
Schmitz,B., "Virtual Reality: On the Brink of Greatness."
Computer-Aided Engineering, April 1993, pp.26-32.
Human Interface Technology Laboratory