The Application of Virtual Reality and HyperReality Technologies to Universities

The Application of Virtual Reality and HyperReality Technologies to Universities

Lalita Rajasingham (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch009
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The term HyperReality (HR) was coined by Nobuyoshi Terashima to refer to “the technological capability to intermix virtual reality (VR) with physical reality (PR) and artificial intelligence (AI) with human intelligence (HI)” (Terashima, 2001, p. 4). HR is a technological capability like nanotechnology, human cloning and artificial intelligence. Like them it does not as yet exist in the sense of being clearly demonstrable and publicly available. Like them it is maturing in laboratories where the question “if?” has been replaced by the question “when?” And like them the implications of its appearance as a basic infrastructure technology are profound and merit careful consideration. (Tiffin &Rajasingham, 2001) Because of this, universities, if they are to be universities, will be involved with HR as a medium and subject of instruction and research, and for the storage and development of knowledge (Tiffin & Rajasingham, 2003). The concepts of HyperUniversities, HyperClasses, Hyperschools, and HyperLectures are at the same level of development as the concepts of virtual universities, virtual classes, virtual colleges, and virtual schools in the later part of the 1980s (Tiffin & Rajasingham, 1995). A project on emerging nanotechnology, Consumer Products Inventory contains over 380 products ranging from clothing, home furnishing, medical scanning and diagnostics tools, electronics, computer hardware, scanning microscopes, and so on (http://www.nanotechproject. org/index.php?id=44&action=view). This is the future environment for which universities will need to educate society. HyperReality subsumes virtual reality. HR is only possible because of the development of computer-generated virtual reality, in particular, the development of distributed virtual reality which makes it possible for different people in different places to interact together in the same virtual reality. It was the theoretical application of this capability to education, and especially to university education, that lead to the concept of virtual classes in virtual schools and universities (Tiffin & Rajasingham, 1995). Initial experiments simulated virtual classes by using videoconferencing, audio conferencing, and audiographic conferencing. The emergence of the Internet shifted these ideas from a laboratory stage to institutional development of institutions calling themselves virtual universities and virtual schools, by virtue of being able to bring teachers and students together in classes using telecommunications and computers, instead of public transport and buildings. Today, synchronous and asynchronous virtual classes are conducted using learning management systems (LMS) applications such as Blackboard, Chatterbox, Eluminate, and Lotus LearningSpace on the Internet. Furthermore, highly interactive, reusable learning objects (LOs) that are adaptable in all aspects, and interoperable with other learning objects, are rapidly coming online (Hanisch & Straber, 2003). HypreReality LOs, still in Beta, are being developed. HyperReality also subsumes artificial intelligence. Teaching machines and computers have been used for instruction since the early days of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) in the 1960s, albeit with little overall impact on education, especially at the university level. However, the growing capability and ubiquity of AI expert systems and agents, the vast amount of repetitive work involved in teaching, and the growing application of business criteria to the management of education suggest that AI agents, conceivably in avatar form, will be adopted in education, and the place where this will begin is likely to be in the universities.
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The Need

Worldwide, governments face the challenge of increasing demand for university education. In Asia alone, the numbers seeking university places is predicted to rise from 17 million in 1995, to 87 million by 2020 (Rowe, 2003). It is unlikely that such demand can be fully met using the traditional communications systems of education (Daniel, 1996). These are:

Key Terms in this Chapter

HyperClass, HyperLecture, HyperSeminar, HyperTutorial: Classes, lectures, seminars, and tutorials that take place in a coaction field in HyperReality. This means an interaction between virtual teachers and students and objects, and physically real teachers and students and objects, in order to learn how to apply a specific domain of knowledge. It allows for the use of artificially intelligent tutors. Such systems are currently experimental, but have the potential to be used on the Internet.

Virtual Class, Virtual Lecture, Virtual Seminar, and Virtual Tutorial: Classes, lectures, seminars, and tutorials are communication systems that allow people in the relative roles of teachers and learners to interact in pursuit of an instructional objective and to access supporting materials such as books and blackboards. The use of linked computers makes it possible for such interaction to take place without the physical presence of teachers and learners or any instructional materials or devices such as books and blackboards. The Internet now provides a global infrastructure for this, so that the terms have become synonymous with holding classes, lectures, seminars, and tutorials on the Internet.

HyperSchool, HyperCollege, HyperUniversity: The term Hyper means that these institutions could exist in HyperReality. HyperReality is where virtual reality and physical reality seamlessly intersect to allow interaction between their components, and where human and artificial intelligences can communicate. The technological capability for this is at an experimental stage, but could be made available with broadband Internet.

JITAITS: Just-In-Time Artificially Intelligent Tutors are expert systems available on demand in HyperReality environments to respond to frequently asked student questions about specific domains of knowledge.

Virtual School, Virtual College, Virtual University: The term virtual refers to the communication capabilities of these institutions, and implies that they can be achieved by means of computers linked by telecommunications which in effect today means by the Internet. The term virtual is used to contrast the way communications in conventional schools, colleges, and universities requires the physical presence of teachers and learners and instructional materials, and invokes the use of transport systems and buildings.

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