Virtual Reality 2.0 and Its Application in Knowledge Building

Virtual Reality 2.0 and Its Application in Knowledge Building

Johannes Moskaliuk (University of Tuebingen, Germany), Joachim Kimmerle (University of Tuebingen, Germany) and Ulrike Cress (Knowledge Media Research Center, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-384-5.ch032
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Abstract

In this chapter, we will point out the impact of user-generated online virtual realities on individual learning and knowledge building. For this purpose, we will first explain some of the central categories of virtual realities (VRs) such as presence and immersion. We will also introduce the term virtual reality 2.0 (VR 2.0), which refers to those new types of VRs that are characterized by typical features of the Web 2.0, such as the opportunity that exists for users to create content and objects themselves. We will explain why we think the term VR 2.0–as a combination of Web 2.0 and VR–is a good label for currently existing user-generated online VRs. This chapter will also explain the concept of knowledge building, both in general terms and in the Web 2.0 context. The main emphasis of the chapter is on the significance of knowledge building for online VRs. In this context, we will describe the visualization of educational content, learner-object interaction, as well as personal, social, and environmental presence as its main features. We will also describe online VRs as a toolbox for user-generated content, and explain why the integration of different tools and seeing “living and learning” in context are relevant for applying user-generated online VRs in educational contexts. In conclusion, we will look at future trends for VR 2.0 environments.
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Introduction

Virtual Reality 2.0 (VR 2.0) is a new generation of online environment where users can communicate and interact with each other using avatars, and can define and generate its content. VR 2.0 is based on Web 2.0 concepts such as mashups of different applications and tools, the concepts of social networking and user-generated content, and the idea that the Web may replace the desktop as the main operating system and become the central entity for different applications. Our assumption is that the future of the Web could lie in a VR 2.0 which combines VR features and the ideas of the Web 2.0. In this context, we will describe under what conditions the best use can be made of VR 2.0 for purposes of individual learning and for collaborative knowledge building.

We will first define what VR is, what its key features are and how they may be classified. The concepts of presence and immersion will be explained. VR 2.0 applications are described as systems that emphasize user communication and interaction, embracing Web 2.0 concepts to VRs. The virtual online world Second Life is presented as a prototype of a VR 2.0 tool.

Next, we will introduce the knowledge building concept suggested by Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994, 2006), which is quite appropriate to describe and explain individual learning and collaborative knowledge building. We will also present an adaptation of this model to Web 2.0 environments by Cress and Kimmerle (2008), and explain why this model provides a suitable explanation, for knowledge building in the VR 2.0 context. We will point out the key factors of successful individual learning and knowledge building in VR 2.0.

The chapter will conclude by looking briefly at the potential future development of VRs and their effects on individual learning and knowledge building.

Virtual Realities

Virtual Realities are artificial worlds that were generated digitally. In its simple form, a VR is an interface between humans and machines that will allow human beings to perceive computer-generated data as reality (Lanier & Biocca, 1992). The feature that defines VRs is interaction by a user with the virtual world, or in other words, immediate feedback (output, as immediate as possible) from the system to user input, creating a perception of some reality which is as realistic as possible by using three-dimensional presentation. Most definitions of VR also imply that data generated by the computer may be perceived with more than one sensory organ (i.e. at least seeing and hearing).

The terms Artificial Reality (Krueger, 1991) and Cyberspace (Novak, 1991) are frequently used as synonyms of VR. Talking of an “Artificial Reality” implies that it is possible to represent content or data which have no corresponding “real” existence in the real world. “Cyberspace” refers not so much to technical aspects but to the concept of a world-wide data network between individuals. Located in different places, they can interact and communicate in a “social setting that exists purely within a space of representation and communication” (Slater, 2002, p. 535).

There is a broad range of existing and potential (future) VR applications, differing mainly in the extent of technical requirements for input and output devices. Some VR systems require a user to wear a Head Mounted Display (HMD) in which stereoscopic projection creates a perception of space. DataGloves or DataSuits are worn as output devices, allowing the user to interact with the virtual world. In so-called Cave Automatic Virtual Environments (CAVE) events are projected into a room, moving objects in the representation in line with movements of the user’s body. The use of 3D glasses can increase depth perception. Flight or driving simulations locate users inside a vehicle or cockpit and require them to use a steering wheel, control stick or other steering device as input medium. Either the surrounding space or an integrated screen are used for projection of what happens. Some systems also provide some feedback of real motion of the vehicle or plane to create a realistic impression.

Desktop Virtual Realities have the lowest technical requirements for input and output media, in that they use a standard mouse, joystick or three-dimensional mouse which allows easy navigation in a three-dimensional space. In this case, 3D glasses will also increase three-dimensional perception.

The terms Augmented Realities or Mixed Realities refer to systems in which a presentation of the real world is overlaid with computer-generated data, objects or representations. In principle, it is possible to use all VR applications for Mixed Realities. The term is also used for overlaying real and animated presentations in films.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Reality (VR): VRs are artificial worlds that were generated digitally. In its simple form, a VR is an interface between humans and machines that will allow human beings to perceive computer-generated data as reality. The feature that defines VRs is interaction by a user with the virtual world, or in other words, immediate feedback (output, as immediate as possible) from the system to user input, creating a perception of some reality which is as realistic as possible by using three-dimensional presentation.

Immersion: Immersion is the user’s feeling of, so to speak, being immersed in a virtual world which is provided by the technical system. So the concept of immersion not only takes into account technological aspects of a VR, but also emotional, motivational and cognitive processes of focusing attention.

Presence: The term presence refers to the extent to which somebody has the impression to be present in a mediated environment. Presence is a matter of the feeling of being there , i.e. the personal perception of an individual, which depends on the available sensory information, but also on this person’s control of attention, motivational factors and other mental processes.

Personal and Social Presence: Users in a VR have to be represented by avatars. This is a requirement both for personal presence of an individual, i.e. the personal feeling of a user to be there in a world created by media, and for social presence of other individuals as sense of being with another .

Knowledge Building: The concept of knowledge building describes the creation of new knowledge in modern knowledge societies as a socio-cultural process. New knowledge is created in a social process and in concrete situations, and this will occur if a community has reached the boundaries of its existing knowledge, and if members of that community are no longer able to explain experiences in their environment with their existing knowledge. Scardamalia and Bereiter compare that situation with a scientific community in which a group of scientists generates new knowledge and then shares it with the rest of the community.

Transduction: The term transduction refers to representations of information which could not normally be perceived by the sensory system of human beings (say, by using different colors for showing a body’s emission of different degrees of warmth).

VR 2.0: VR 2.0 is a combination of technical facilities provided by an online VR with Web 2.0 concepts. VR 2.0 means, on the one hand, an expansion of VRs by adding Web 2.0 features, and on the other hand, the term implies that the degree of presence and immersion of which a VR is capable will not primarily depend on technical features and not necessarily on the number and fidelity of the input and output channels that it uses.

Environmental Presence: Environmental presence is closely linked with personal and social presence. Different learners represented by their avatars are simultaneously present in the VR, share the same (or similar) awareness about their situation and environment.

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