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The Potential of VR for UK Higher Education
Group Report: Technology
Introduction to the Group Work
Virtual reality techniques are likely to have a major influence on the UK's educational process in the future. For example, it may be possible to provide educational establishments with access to sophisticated laboratory facilities even if in a virtual form. The exact form future virtual teaching aids will take depends very much on the nature of the teaching programme to be delivered. A broad spectrum of technology based concepts will be available and it will be extremely important to understand where and how to apply these to achieve an effective teaching/educational medium.
The aim of the Technology Group is to identify where and how VR technology can be used to deliver an effective educational benefit. An initial specification of the performance required from the technology will be required to be derived for the short(1-3 years), medium(3-5 years) and long term(<10 years).
The group will start with a scoping review of VR based delivery systems for educational systems. The technology area covers the computational resource to provide the VE and the peripheral devices through which the user will interact. We will also have to consider the method of hosting the educational system and whether it is entirely locally based or part of a remote/networked system.
Our emphasis should be on the future requirement rather than what can be achieved today. The objective is to highlight the major technology concerns including :
- technology maturity
- technology trends
- technology performance shortfalls
- technology obsolescence (can we achieve technology independence?)
- health and safety issues (affecting deployment in educational establishments)
Multi-sensory Virtual Environment Integration Laboratory,
Roy Kalawsky reported back on the discussions of the group.
What is technology? - it is functionality, not just hardware.
- provides host to maintain virtual environment
- provides interface between user and virtual environment
- because of the above points it impacts on user acceptability
- what performance is acceptable? - VR has to deliver better and faster and enhance current applications
- application is key performance driver
With this definition, the group asked other groups to consider the following issues as these decide what technology they need:
- Where would you use 3D virtual environments?
- What are the performance expectations / requirements?
- Knowledge giving - is there a need for enhanced interaction in teaching?
- Skill Training (interaction becomes more important)
- How much are you prepared to pay per seat?
- Databases are an/the expensive component of system (in terms of cost, IPR, creation, maintenance and storage)
Many of the systems at the moment are selling on the basis on photorealism. This is OK for games and walkthroughs but may not be what is required in education. There may be better ways to use the technology depending on the point to be made. We need to focus on the use of real models.
The application defines the technology requirements.
There is a need for standards, but this is difficult as things are changing. The need is for open standards that can evolve.
The group looked at the way technology might emerge and the results are shown below:
Head Mounted Display 300*300 680*480 1024*768
Single User system (50K) system (100K) system (70-80K)
Panoramic Single Monoscopic (10K) stereo (15K) prices down to
User 1280*1024 1280*1024 less than 10K
head tracked (35K)
Panoramic Systems Monoscopic (20K) stereo stereo prices down
Multiple Users 1280*1024 (20K) (30-40K) (25K) to less than
+ software 1280*1024 1280*1024 20K
+ software + software
1996 1997 1998 1999
Notes on this table:
In discussion the following points emerged:
- we note price increase in 1996/7 due to move from monoscopic to stereoscopic
- move to single user panoramic systems may be lower cost because Universities may already have suitable projection equipment
- hard to equip labs at these prices
- need to aim for less than £1000 system for teaching use
- costs need to be compared with equipping real labs
Following further discussion within the group, the following recommendations were made:
- Model database - we need to encourage Research Councils to get centrally stored model databases
- Demonstration of educational value in a key area - benefit must be obvious
- Technology roadmap study results to be widely available (SIMA project)
- Usability research is needed (independent of suppliers) which addresses performance requirements, health and safety aspects
- Hardware-independent, reusable software (high level) is needed - encourage a standard
Virtual Environments Visualisation