Learning to Keep a Vineyard with VitiVR (An Interview with Selin İşmen)

By Vinistanbul, VR First BAU, BUG Game LAB and Bahçeşehir University

With the commercial availability of headsets for VR, the enthusiasm for training programs in VR has touched professions of nearly every industry, from baristas to lathe operators. While training programs in VR vary widely in their intrinsic practicality, one training program that was an ideal fit for VR is vineyard maintenance as realized in the app VitiVR, which was developed in VR First at BAU with members of the BUG Game Lab. In light of VitiVR’s nomination for the 2018 Auggie Awards, I spoke with Selin İşmen, the founder of the project.

Tell me about yourself and how you started working in VR?

I was working in the IT sector in 2010, and working on a master’s degree in that field, when I drastically changed direction and began working as a corporate trainer in the wine industry. It was then that I was also first introduced to methods of distance learning and thinking of ways to apply those methods. Later in 2016, around the time VR was widely released to consumers, I came across an article on decoding the future of food, a report published by Reimagine Food about VR, which prompted me to start a project of my own. It became a project about a problem that existed in viticulture and this was accepted by VR First BAU for further development and subsequent production.

What will users experience in the VitiVR app and how might they benefit from it?

Not all agricultural faculties possess excess vineyards for practice work as there are high costs associated with creating vineyards, which includes ongoing expenses related to maintenance and repair. Real environments give only one soil type and limited vine types while VitiVR provides trainees opportunities for practicing on different virtual environments. The prototype version of the project focuses on the training of winter pruning on three different vine types in Burgundy, Napa Valley, and Umbria. In this VR training app, users gain valuable experience by making mistakes which won’t cause any real harm to the vine. This helps trainees build confidence in their craft while avoiding any financial loses for the vineyard.

What is your opinion of using VR for training? Is VitiVR a good example?

Education is the most useful application for which VR might be used since it supports the transfer of theory into practice. From K-12 to universities, practice in all areas where VR simulation is implemented can be made much easier and more effective. Interactive virtual reality technology has the benefit of manually realizing experiences, which enables the brain to build powerful new connections in relation to knowledge, action, and long-term memory. Virtual reality can also help us to better retain information that’s presented to us cross-modally, i.e. visual, auditory and tactile. VitiVR is definitely an effective learning simulation. Users gain educational opportunities which are normally difficult to obtain in real environments. I follow other VR educational simulations in order to improve my own development process and observe how the sector progresses.

Where has VitiVR been exhibited? What are people’s reactions to VitiVR?

In 2017, VitiVR was demoed to users in France, Italy, and Turkey. It was also proposed as part of the curriculum in Universities of Bordeaux and Florence. Whilst European countries continue to follow the traditional methods, however, they have found advantages of VitiVR useful and the impact of immersive virtual environments has excited academicians and students.

Are you a part of any communities related to VR and technology? How have those communities helped you? Why are those communities important?

Yes, I have been part of VR First at BAU for more than two years. Another community which I am associated with is the BUG Game Lab, which helped create the successful team that worked on VitiVR. After the prototype, we worked together at agriculture institutes in France and Italy with plans to add this training simulation to their curriculum. VitiVR was made in the VR First BAU LAB environment.

Selin İsmen (Left) of Vinistanbul (Right)

Video of the gameplay is available here.

If this is your favorite project, please visit www.auggieaward.com now and vote! Open until 1st of October.