September 25, 2017

VR in Ed Case Study

A Case Study - The Impact of VR on Academic Performance, published jointly by the Beijing Bluefocus E-Commerce Co. and the Beijing iBokan Wisdom Mobile Internet Technology Training Institutions offers some promising, although limited, insight into the use of VR in education.

The experiment sought to show the difference between traditional teaching and VR-based teaching in astrophysics, along with impact upon student learning.

The authors explain that, in astrophysics, students cannot really “conduct experiments” like they would in other classes. “Students can only try to understand it through their imagination and teacher’s explanation.” The study assumes that VR-based teaching is “vivid and interactive,” making it entirely possible for students to understand abstract concepts “in a three-dimensional way; conduct simulated operations; and let students experience the scenarios at different cosmic velocity.”

Another assumption was that VR would support both theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills training by providing an immersive learning experience, enhancing students' sense of active involvement in class, and simply making learning more fun. The authors kvetched: “Most students lack interest in boring teaching and learning.” Enter virtual reality.


The study was conducted at two full-time high schools in Beijing, with equal numbers of male and female students. They represented from A to C students in their normal classroom performance. The students were divided into groups for this study: one group adopted VR-based instruction (defined as thirty minutes of VR-based teaching), while the other group approached the content from a traditional teaching perspective (defined as thirty minutes of lecture and PowerPoint).  The same teacher was employed in all groups to avoid any experiment deviation caused by the professional difference among teachers. Immediate post-tests were then administered after the teaching to contrast both the academic performance and learning efficiency between the two groups. A second test was administered two weeks later to see if new knowledge was retained. Three HTC Vive virtual reality headsets were used in this study.

See next week's post for the surprising conclusions...

September 18, 2017

Sensavis Refreshed

What's new these days with Sensavis, the 3D content manufacturer? I followed them over the years, and their recent efforts have lent themselves to a fresh perspective, a rebranding, if you will.

Sensavis continues their U.S. messaging, recalibrating their 3D offering in a smart way. Their previous product, called The 3D Classroom, is now simply called 'Sensavis'. This makes sense, because the nomenclature 3D sounds old-school these days, having been effectively replaced by a newcomer to the mat—VR. (See my past post about this evolution, "What's in a Name?") 

At the same time, Sensavis has reshaped and refocused their mission: “teach, create, activate.” This notion can be translated as better teaching (through visualization), easy content creation, and actively involving students in their own learning. A nice reverse move! Student content creation is the newest meme coming out of educational circles, and Sensavis is wise to make this transition.

September 11, 2017

Beyond the Cool

Every month, I have occasion to meet with many innovators in both the 3D and VR industry—especially with many of the innovators bringing new products, displays, and solutions to the U.S. or Eurasian market. My experience thus far is that they are largely unaware of the seminal work conducted by the American Optometric Association found in See Well, Learn Well

In my experience, most innovators new to the VR scene don’t have a satisfactory answer for the educator or consumer with the concern that “this gives me headaches” or “will this hurt my children?” (The common responses are overly dismissive: “don’t let those children use the technology”; or “there is no problem at all.”) I continuously ask exhibit hall representatives about this issue, and to date, few are able to respond well. Plainly, VR strategists cannot expect success if they are oblivious to vision health issues involving so many customers, as discussed in the previous four posts. 

Just because 3D virtual reality headgear is cool, or the stereoscopic 3D 360 content is eye-popping and captivating, that doesn’t make it impervious to what we know about the vision challenges of children or customers. No, the vision issue didn’t just go away with the advent of the next big technology. The takeaway here is that companies will never sell VR or other advanced display technologies in a sustained fashion unless they also handle this vision health issue well. You can start by reading or re-reading the American Optometric Association’s seminal report on 3D vision health, See Well, Learn Well.

September 4, 2017

The Missing Link

In last week’s post I mentioned there is a bigger problem, one that helps explain why VR may not provide a comfortable viewing experience for a larger subset of viewers. The guilty party is our own vision.

Vision. This is actually the elephant in the room. This is a lesson not learned. Any VR experiences that are stereoscopic can induce symptoms such as soreness, dryness of the eyes, fatigue, headache, eye irritation, blurred or double vision, dizziness or nausea. That’s quite a list. Simply stated, if our eyes are unable to see 3D, and these kinds of symptoms occur, it is an indication of an underlying vision issue. It is not necessarily the fault of the content, the VR experience, or the hardware. It's your vision. Any student with myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, convergence, alignment, accommodation, tracking, or suppression issues can experience viewing problems with VR.

This is a bigger deal than you think; let me quantify it for you. I often demonstrate VR experiences at adult party gatherings, conference workshops, and my own undergraduate classes. In all of these settings, approximately 20% experience discomfort when viewing a stereoscopic virtual reality experience. (Medical experts suggest that the 3D vision syndrome affects anywhere from 14-20% of the population, worldwide.)

And since I constrain the user viewing approach and my selection of content, this is solid evidence of stereopsis problems, not virtual reality sickness or misguided content.) Also, since most people don’t avail themselves of regular vision care, most people won’t know they have these problems until they strap on their VR headgear.