Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Virtual Reality field trips

An ongoing project, which is a collaboration between the Dr Naomi Holmes (Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Northampton)  Dr Scott Turner (Department of Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton) and Adel Gordon (Learning Technology Team, University of Northampton)

Virtual field trips are not a new idea, but with the release of the developer version of the Oculus Rift providing a more affordable immersive/virtual reality equipment, could virtual field trips become immersive virtual field trips at reasonable cost? Is this a good idea?

The Oculus Rift (http://www.oculusvr.com/), a device whose popularity with gamers is increasing, is under investigation of tool for preparing for field trips. The demo of a house and gardens in Tuscany that comes with the Oculus Rift (available through the Oculus Rift developer centre https://developer.oculusvr.com/) is being used as the basis of the test. 

Students come in, put the headset on, after an initial orientation, walk around the house, and gardens, later fill in a questionnaire on the experience, as well as talking to the two investigators. Part of the procedure is the students are told they can stop at any time and restart if they want at any time during the session.

The research questions revolve around
- Do students like the tool?
- Do students think this tool could be used for:
   - preparation before a field trip to try out ideas.
   - a way of describing a trip when they come back.
   - a replacement for field trips.
- What are the limitations of the approach?
- Where else could it be used, if anywhere?
- Is there some procedures that need to be put in place to enable effective use of these?

Preliminary results will be released in the near future.

Funding for this work has come from the University of Northampton's Innovation Fund.

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