Technical Details and Educational Applications for Virtual Reality Technologies

Technical Details and Educational Applications for Virtual Reality Technologies

Yongzhi Wang
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4960-5.ch004
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The application of virtual reality (VR) in higher education has drawn attention. Understanding the state of the art for VR technologies helps educators identify appropriate applications and develop a high-quality engaging teaching-learning process. This chapter provides a comprehensive survey of current hardware and software supports on VR. Secondly, important technical metrics in VR technology are considered with comparisons of different VR devices using identified metrics. Third, there is a focus on software tools and an explore of various development frameworks, which facilitate the implementation of VR applications. With this information as a foundation, there is a VR use in higher education. Finally, there is a discussion of VR applications that can be potentially used in education.
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In 1957, Morton Heilig, a cinematographer, invented the Sensorama (U.S. Patent No. 3,050,870, 1962), a theatre cabinet multimedia device that offered viewers an interactive experience as shown in Figure 1. In 1961, Comeau and Bryan, two Philco Corporation engineers, created the first head-mounted display (HMD) called the Headsight. The display had two video screens, one for each eye, as well as a magnetic tracking device. It was the first motion-tracking device ever created. Headsight was primarily used to move a remote camera allowing a user to look around an environment without physically being there. In 1966, Thomas Furness, a military engineer, developed the first flight simulator for the Air Force. This sparked a lot of interest in VR technology and how it could be used for training purposes (Furness, n.d.). In 1968, Ivan Sutherland, a Harvard professor and computer scientist invented the first VR/AR head-mounted display called ‘The Sword of Damocles’ (Sutherland, 1965).

Figure 1.

The Sensorama VR systems

(U.S. Patent No. 3,050,870, 1962)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Augmented Reality: Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

Learning Environment: A learning environment is the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn.

Mixed Reality: Mixed reality is the incorporation of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations, where physical and digital objects coexist and interact in real-time.

Hardware: Hardware is the collection of physical parts of a device. Generally, hardware is the parts of a device that you can physically touch.

Virtual Reality: Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial environment that is created based on two main subsystems, namely hardware and software, and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.

Education: Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.

Interactive: Being interactive is acting one upon or with the other.

Software: Software is the programs and other operating information used by a computer or any other device.

Collaborative Virtual Environments: Collaborative virtual environments, or CVEs, are used to collaborate and interact with many participants who may be in different locations and at different distances.

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