Why is virtual reality so popular

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So-called virtual reality is characterized by the fact that users not only immerse themselves in a data room, but can also interact with the data as well as with other users of the same room (Münker, 2005). VR uses visual, auditory, but also tactile or haptic feedback to create an immersive computer-generated environment. The virtual environments can come from fiction or depict real locations. The aim of virtual realities is to give users the feeling of being in the virtual world. Thus, virtual realities make it possible to get to know objects and places that would otherwise be associated with dangers or simply impossible, such as a visit to Mars or immersion in historical places or events. In addition, work steps can be repeated as often as required, an advantage e.g. in the field of medicine or in dealing with very valuable resources. Virtual game worlds are particularly popular. You can find more information on virtual game worlds in the specialization on Game Based Learning.

While in so-called virtual environments the user moves within a virtual computer world, in augmented reality systems he is in the real environment, which is expanded by virtual elements or digital information. The virtual information is displayed in the viewer's field of vision. A typical user is equipped with a mobile device or semi-transparent data glasses. You can find out more about augmented reality in the specialization.

Virtual learning environments are learning platforms on which students can find information, pictures, videos, tasks and test questions on the respective course in virtual course rooms. Often there is also the possibility to communicate with fellow students or teachers via, for example, discussion forums. You can find out more about learning platforms in the specialization in the field of media technology.

So far, there have only been a few studies that deal with the design of virtual learning environments from a pedagogical point of view - and help to avoid traps: For example, a sensible scenario should be selected from various ways of illustration depending on the learning objective so as not to distract learners with unnecessary details or even to encourage the formation of misconceptions. Equally important is the correct selection of options for action in virtual learning worlds and the representation of personal presence, i.e. the presence of real or fictional people in the virtual learning space. Since very few applications occur in isolation, questions relating to the organization of a virtual university must also be clarified and integrated into the learning environment.

Technical framework

Headsets for virtual realities cover the eyes and ears of the user with the aim of immersing the user completely in the digital world. The sensors of the headsets partly take head and body movements into account and allow the wearer to get the feeling of looking around or moving in the virtual world. The control of movements in virtual space has not yet been solved satisfactorily, since the keyboard, for example, is not visible. Gestures are partly recorded by the systems and thus enable the learners to interact with virtual objects by means of hand movements. Although there are now motion-sensitive gloves or clothing - so-called wearables - joysticks or gamepads are still used most frequently in VR. Lightweight VR headsets that can be used in combination with tablets and smartphones and no longer require a PC or game controller are also already being developed.

The biggest disadvantages of virtual realities are that the implementation is quite complex. So far, there are only a very limited number of simulations for learning with the help of VR. Very powerful computers are also necessary to represent virtual worlds. Since up to now the images in front of the eye have been built up with a time delay with fast head movements, some users feel nauseous. VR headsets are still too expensive to equip entire seminars with them. As far as the use of VR headsets is concerned, there are also disadvantages, especially for people with disabilities in the visual or hearing area.

Alternative to virtual reality: augmented reality

While in so-called virtual environments the user moves within a virtual computer world, in augmented reality systems he is in the real environment, which is expanded by virtual elements or digital information. The virtual information is displayed in the viewer's field of vision. A typical user is equipped with a mobile device or semi-transparent data glasses. You can find out more about augmented reality in the specialization.

Virtual learning environments are learning platforms on which students can find information, pictures, videos, tasks and test questions on the respective course in virtual course rooms. Often there is also the possibility to communicate with fellow students or teachers via, for example, discussion forums. You can find out more about learning platforms in the specialization in the field of media technology.

Examples:

  • The EUseum enables virtual tours of various museums.
  • The TU Berlin enables students and other interested parties to walk through the Charlottenburg campus in 3D for orientation.
  • As part of a pedagogy seminar at the TU Darmstadt, the virtual world Second Life was examined in relation to teaching-learning scenarios already implemented in it. The results are presented in a long text by Antje Müller & Martin Leidl.

Additional Information:

  • The Immersive Education Initiative researches the use or quality features and standards for virtual reality headsets and collects best practice examples in the field of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

Advanced Game Based Learning: http://www.e-teaching.org/didaktik/konzeption/lösungen/lernspiele/game_based_learning/index_html

Specialization in the field of media technology: http://www.e-teaching.org/technik/distribution/lernmanagementsysteme/index_html

Specialization in the field of media technology: http://www.e-teaching.org/technik/distribution/lernmanagementsysteme/index_html

Long text: http://www.e-teaching.org/didaktik/gestaltung/vr/SL_lehre_langtext_071207_end.pdf

from Antje Müller & Martin Leidl: http://www.e-teaching.org/didaktik/gestaltung/vr/SL_lehre_langtext_071207_end.pdf

"7 Things you should know about VR Headsets" (12/2014): http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about-vr-headsets

Virtual reality and e-learning: http://www.e-teaching.org/didaktik/gestaltung/vr/vr.pdf

Simulation: http://www.e-teaching.org/didaktik/gestaltung/visualisierung/simulation/

e-teaching.org (2015). Virtual reality. Last changed on 07/13/2015. Leibniz Institute for Knowledge Media: https://www.e-teaching.org/didaktik/gestaltung/vr/index_html. Accessed on May 22nd, 2021