Immersive learning solutions, such as AR and VR, have the potential to save money, increase efficiency, and intensify motivation. In this interview Santeri Suominen, the curator of the Helsinki XR Center and chair of the Finnish VR Association FIVR, discusses how we can make that happen, what pitfalls we need to avoid, and how to integrate the technology with world-class instruction.
Photo: Meeri Lehto / Helsinki XR Center
You have an immersive space in the Helsinki XR center. What are the requirements for such a new learning environment?
We have built our immersive space for the purpose of demonstration, so you can easily try out different solutions for learning different career and technical education skills. Ease of use has been our main design criterion.
If you wanted to design such an immersive space, you should not have reflecting surfaces, because that affects the positioning systems of AR/VR equipment negatively. There needs to be a lot of open space, because when you are using VR you don’t see around you in the real world so you might bump into walls or other people if you don’t have enough space. You need good, uniform lighting, and walls and the floor need to have color gradient or distinguishable texture so that the AR/VR positioning technology can tell the difference between different locations in the room.
In addition to the functional requirements, we considered the wow factor. We built the room themed after Japanese - Finnish fusion design. It involves warm colors and organic wood. We’ve combined modern XR-technology and call to nature, giving our space a dreamlike character. When people enter the space, you can see their delightful surprise.
Photo: Helsinki XR Center
Photo: Helsinki XR Center
What XR - technologies are you using the immersive space and why?
Santeri: We wanted to have a smorgasbord of the best equipment available. For augmented reality we have iPhone X. Regarding AR glasses we are still waiting for Microsoft Hololens 2. We have the Full Monty of VR technology: HTC Vive Pro, Valve Index, Oculus Rift S, HP Reverb, Oculus Quest and Oculus Go. On top of that Samsung Odyssey and Varjo glasses are coming up. My favourites are Valve Index and Oculus Quest. With Valve Index you just see how the first generation VR technology is so last decade. It has 120 Hz frequency, good field of view and great resolution. It has very good usability and it feels comfortable. The high frequency is a big thing, because it makes using the VR glasses a smoother experience. Because video looks more natural due to higher frequency, you don’t experience nausea or dizziness as much as with other glasses. Technology has advanced so much just in few years. Valve Index is in my opinion the best device that requires separate tracking stations. In contrast, Oculus Quest is good for using VR at different locations. It’s the first proper VR device that does need to be connected to a computer and separate tracking stations. A great package. With the advances in the hardware, I believe the XR field will grow significantly in the future. We’ve solved all the problems in tracking technology to make playing, learning and experiencing in VR consumer grade. By the way, if you have Oculus Quest, you can connect it to a computer with USB C/3.0 cable to get all the Rift functionalities. As a first device, I would recommend Oculus Quest unless you need superior quality. If you do need superior quality or are experiencing nausea or dizziness in VR I would go for Valve Index. And for the absolute high end, if cost is not a problem, Varjo is the best.
The market seems to Agree with Santeri. The newest VR industry outlook by Superdata lists Playstation 4 VR, Oculus Quest and Valve Index having the most market share, where PS4 is primarily meant for consumer gaming. Valve Index has been out of stock.
3DBear's pedagogic expert Rasmus Borg assembling a car motor in immersive space.
How can new immersive technologies help teaching and learning?
The AR/VR learning solutions field has developed markedly during the last years, and implementation and uptake of different solutions has peaked like never before. I have seen a full repertoire of solutions for career and technical education and preK-12. There’s, for example, forestry heavy duty vehicle simulators, learning how to set a table in restonomy in AR, and guiding aeroplane mechanics in VR. There’s a huge amount of good AR and VR learning solutions. With VR you can experience getting old, finding out how having a bad hearing or vision or amnesia actually feels like. This helps nurses to treat their patients better. The immersive technologies learning field is vast. Another important theme is that when you experience real life situations, you gain empathy and understanding. You actually can experience different points of view. You can train industrial processes by simulating a real factory environment in VR, or show how a phenomenon develops during a long time frame. As an example you can see in VR how the water surface rises as a result of global warming of two degrees and what it looks like in Manhattan then. If this does not help people understand the long term phenomena, what does? I would like to let everybody who is considering using AR/VR learning technology know: there most likely is a solution out there for your teaching needs. Experiment bravely with different solutions. You should not get stuck with one or two applications, but use different solutions for different needs. In Finland we have amazing companies who have created fantastic learning experiences.
Photo: Teppo Vahteristo / Keuda. 3DBear won together with KEUDA vocational school “The best digital act 2019” -prize about spreading XR technologies in education. In the photo student is creating interior decoration study about furniture placement inside a scale model with Augmented Reality app in 3D.
Based on 3DBear’s experiences, benefits of using immersive technologies in education are:
- Higher academic achievement: Empowered by high engagement
- Work and life skills: Practicing and simulating real life situations
- Individuality: Immersion increases motivation and participation
- Job skills: Visualizing your skills and work for others
- Decreased costs: Travel, training, materials
- CTE skills: Harnessing technology for your job
Examples of how to use immersive technology in career and technical education for distance learning can be on our CTE page: https://www.3dbear.io/cte
Jussi Kajala, CEO of 3DBear inc.