Virtual Reality: usage in education

Beyond 3D Computer Visualisation

Translation from 2D into 3D VR and experiencing scale, is one of the most challenging aspects for the (design/architecture) students. And exactly this innovation is what helps them out.

The most important benefit of this innovation is that (design/architecture) students can experience their design / product in “real life”. By emerging in their virtual reality environment, they get a good impression of the actual space involved and the scale of the product/design they are creating positioned in that space. In the end they can even make their design interactive. Others can provide them with improvement suggestions simultaneously. They can adapt their design based on these experiences. Using VR in the projects will speed up the their design development by doing frequent, interactive iterations, learn from them and improve the design.

The translation from scale model to reality is difficult for students. What is the scale, what does the construction look like? What is the effect of materialisation on your design? What are effects on your design of light, heat, sound? This is all possible to explore using VR. The student can really experience the dimensions of their design, as well as sensory aspects.

There are many different 3D software programmes available. This course helps students to make use of the most relevant available 3D software for their specific project, including the different plugins available on the market. They learn which 3D tool helps them best for what they want to achieve and how to use this tool.

This innovation shows that using VR in architecture/design education helps students to experience their projects in real life, see the models in a technical exploded view , and use the motion controllers to draw in 3D space. This allows the students to make sketches or comments on any model, scale the world around them up or down until they are satisfied, research their project on important aspects, and improve their designs based on their findings. Iterate again until the design is perfect.

Currently architects already use these kind of VR applications to design their projects. They use this application to have their designs evaluated by potential users. This not only creates commitment by the users, but they are also able to improve the design, based on the comments.

Students experience dimensions, they can experience / inspect their own designs in ‘real life’ and improve their design by quick iterations.

In construction education VR helps the students to look in the building and make iterations and subsequently an adapted design. This saves development time.

Materialisation is possible and helps students to experience the impact of the usage of different materials in their design and if needed adapt the design/materials.

Technical connections can be inspected carefully in VR, and iterations quickly made.

Most architects already use VR. By having this VR knowledge, students are equipped for their future working life.

Multiplayer: Working together during the VR experience increases the educational usability: students and lecturers can walk together in the VR environment and discuss the design together. Other students can join in with a smartphone app and everything can be shown on a big screen.

You can work together with other universities as long as they have similar software and devices. VR is a virtual learning environment.

By using VR you are isolating yourself from the rest of the world. Nobody knows what you are experiencing behind those VR glasses!. The challenge is to get more people in the VR experience at the same time, so that it becomes a group experience. Lecturers can then also provide recommendations during the VR experience. Currently multiplayer options are being investigated to solve this point.

These VR systems are not yet available for everybody. The costs for such VR systems are high, and a large system is needed. You also need a dedicated room to do this work. At least 2x2m2 per person is needed to walk around freely.

Screen resolution of the glasses should be higher and also the speed of the graphics card (gaming version) needs to increase in order to keep up with the technical requirements.

Define beforehand if you really need VR for your specific project. What do you want to achieve with using VR? It is still a lot of work to get it all done using VR. Sometimes a small movie is more than enough.

Check your learning goals of your course carefully: do they really need VR to achieve them?

It has not yet been established whether students will become better designers / architects by using this innovation. Also benefits for the lecturers (saving time/ better instructions etc.) are not yet clear. This needs to be investigated.