Night at Museum: VR Improves Education

Wenxi Qiu
Wenxi Qiu
Apr 10, 2018 · 7 min read

Introduction

This is a VR research project (Night at the Museum) for the VR Developer Nanodegree course. The project was developed based on research findings including various VR applications in education including schools, universities and professional industries such as construction and public services.

The project Night at the Museum provides a unique immersive exploring experience by combining the traditional “museum exhibition” with “a floating fantasy” traveling experience. Through the VR experience, the player is encouraged to move around and learn how VR can be applied to improve the education process. It could help the users better understand that VR can be effective in learning and increase knowledge retention for students.

The research on the topic took me total 4 weeks (part-time) to collect information and develop the project scene levels from scratch, including user testing and tuning iteration modifications. I like the project very much because it pushed me to dig into how VR can be used and what the values are for different industries, even though I chose education for the project.

VR is still in the early stage and it is important to keep open-mind and be creative in searching potential opportunities.

Unity version: 2017.3.1p4(64bit)

Google VR version: 1.120 Cardboard (Android Mobile 6.0 or Above)

The most difficult part was to find a satisfactory balance between user expectation on VR experience and the limitation of mobile device can provide. In the project, a low poly environment and modes were used and the research content was presented in 2D images and video clips. The user testing found that the players were satisfied for the interactive moving around and click-to-play presenting information. The more interactive the more immersive experience can be felt by the user.

Outcomes

This Project is a useful reference and can be used as a toolkit for further VR museum or exhibition content development. It can also be used as a VR educational toolkit. The scripts can be reused and adjusted easily.

Story of the Process

Statement of Purpose: The research project is aimed to summarize the findings of how VR can impact the current industries and to select one of them to create a museum alike VR experience. By playing the game, he/she can understand what current VR technology can improve education performance and encourage more adaption of VR technology in education.

Persona

Name: Issac Zhu

Age: 35

Gender: Male

Profession: Teacher, Middle-School

VR Experience: Some experience using Cardboard

Working Expectation: 12 years

Issac is a teacher, age 35, working in a middle school teaching History. He likes mobile games and reading. He found virtual reality could be a great teaching tool for his history class. He want to know more about VR and considering what usage could be for the education industry.

Initial Scratches

The scratches of the game were shown below. Three scene were considered to create an immersive environment.

Level Development:

The first scene was to build a fantasy environment in a mountain with floating islands.

The user can use a gaze teleport system to move around the scene. There are 5 buildings in the scene representing topics in:

  1. A Case Study Summary — The Impact of VR on Academic Performance

2. VR typical usage in school and feedback from teachers

3. Google Expeditions Project for VR education

4. VR Training in construction industry

5. VR for Safety training activities

After user testing and design iterations, the final scene is shown below.

Instruction to Play:

Switch VR mode: Click the VR Mode icon.

Movement: Gaze pointing at the ground and click to move to the green indicator

Watch Videos: The screens inside the buildings are useful videos for VR education. Gaze and click to play.

Restart: Look down at the circle and click to restart the scene.

After user testing, it was recommended to include a normal view full screen Start Menu for users who are not familiar with VR. Then after starting the game, the user can see the scene without a VR headset and by clicking the VR Mode he/she can switch to VR.

User Testing Outcomes and Iteration

Process of User Testing 1: (Issac)

Question: What do you see in the scene? Can you describe it?.

Issac: I see a dark gray building with , and it looks like a villa with. The objects are boards with information on it. The lighting may be too dark and seems at night.

Question: What size do you think the room is? What position do you feel you are inside?

Issac: The room seems small. I feel I am big and standing near the ceiling. Comparing to my height (1.7m), the height of the room seems to be about 2 meters.

Question: What do you expect to see in the scene? Any suggestion for improvement?

Issac: I can see a few buildings in different locations. The floating islands are interesting and I love to jump onto it. The environment was dark so I would suggest to add more lighting. And a Start Menu is missing which seems odd.

User Testing 1 Key Findings:

1. The environment is too dark. Brighter light should be used to improve viewing experience.

2. The size of the building seemed too small and should be increased.

3. A start menu should be added for VR application.

Process of User Testing 2: (Issac)

Question: Can you start playing and is the movement felt comfortable?

Issac: I can look at the panel and click start. The speed of teleport is OK for me but it is a bit blur. Once I enter the room, I can click to play the video.

Question: Do you enjoy playing? What aspects do you like and any recommendation?

Issac: The background are in great atmosphere and I felt in the sky. There is no switch between VR mode and normal view mode. Some videos are too long to watch.

Question: Do you remember after viewing the videos?

Issac: Yes! I did enjoy viewing all the videos and remember most of them. Using VR for teaching or telling stories is such a good way for retaining the knowledge.

User Testing 2 Key Findings:

1. The gaze-teleport system works fine and is less likely to cause motion sickness.

2. The interactive elements can significantly improve user immersive experience. Videos played inside VR can be remembered more easily than traditional 2D media.

3. Interactive content should be kept reasonable in length. The size of some videos should be reduced to improve user experience.

Breakdown of Final Pieces

The game start menu gives the first impression to the player and instruction to start the game. It has a music button to turn it on and off. The orientation in the Start Menu is vertical direction.

Then after click start, the player will enter the scene in a normal full screen with gyro positioning so that he/she can view in 360 degree using the mobile.

After clicking the VR Mode button on the right bottom screen, the game switch to VR view. The player can teleport easily by the gaze-click system.

The research findings are presented in 5 building locations including summaries and videos. The player can watch the video inside the buildings.

There is a restart button if the player looks down in VR.

Conclusion

Some key development and experience points have been learned as following.

Compared with traditional education, VR-based education is of obvious advantage in theoretical knowledge teaching as well as practical skills training. In theoretical knowledge teaching, it boasts the ability to make abstract problems concrete, and theoretical thinking well-supported. In practical skills training, it helps sharpen students’ operational skills, provides an immersive learning experience, and enhances students’ sense of involvement in class, making learning more fun, more secure, and more active.

The VR Mode Switch is considered convenient for many users as it has similar experience to current mobile application which are non-VR. But it may be unnecessary for VR and could cause negative impact to the overall experience. Especially when viewing in VR, if switching back to normal view mode it can be a nightmare experience no one enjoys.

In general, the research project has been successful and it can be further developed as an educational toolkit for different areas.

Wenxi Qiu

Written by

Wenxi Qiu

VR Enthusiast, Developer, Innovator

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