VR technology brings geography lessons to life

Feel the tremors beneath your feet or watch the ocean bed open: VR technology brings geography lessons to life

VR technology adds a touch of realism to the learning experience, allowing students to immerse themselves in various scenarios of Earth’s processes that can be difficult to imagine without first-hand experience. credit: National University of Singapore

You are standing in an apartment when you hear the news that there is an earthquake. Soon you feel your body moving and the ground starts to shake, increasing the intensity until the shelves on the walls and the things placed on the table fall.

It stays that way for 10 seconds, your ears fill with loud rumbles, and you have an overwhelming urge to crouch down and hide. Then, as soon as it comes, the tremors gradually end.

Upon taking off your headset, your turbulent surroundings are gone and you find yourself back on safe and stable ground in the NUS—thankfully.

Through the use of virtual reality (VR) technology and a vibrating platform, also known as a shake board, students will soon not only learn about earthquakes, but also experience them through slide shows.

This is particularly eye-opening for students in Singapore where earthquakes are not present, said Feng Chen-chih, associate professor in the Department of Geography.

Feel the tremors beneath your feet or watch the ocean bed open: VR technology brings geography lessons to life

Simulation scenarios include a large earthquake as seen from the external environment. credit: National University of Singapore

While the city-state sits outside the Pacific Rim of fire and is therefore shielded from natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, NUS graduates can now experience tremors through a project supported by the Learning Innovation Fund-Technology (LIF-T). Huh. ,

The VR-based learning environment not only plugs a gap in earthquake education, where fieldwork is limited, but also simulates the Earth processes that lead to earthquakes, such as plate tectonic movement.

“Fieldwork involves visiting specific sites, but the best thing you can see is a crack in the land surface, a fault line, or a volcano. So, there is some sign of an earthquake, but it’s constant because, Of course, you don’t want to be there when the ground is shaking,” said Prof Feng.

But reaching this milestone is not easy, he shared, with the supply chain disruptions coupled with COVID-19 delaying the project by close to a year.

The team had to overcome another obstacle – creating virtual landscapes that they, and in some cases, the whole of humanity, have not seen in person.

Feel the tremors beneath your feet or watch the ocean bed open: VR technology brings geography lessons to life

VR technology depicting a different plate boundary landscape allows students a closer look at Earth’s processes. credit: National University of Singapore

How to Shake: Recreating Unseen Events

As a Taiwanese, Prof Feng has suffered several earthquakes, most recently last December when he was on vacation back home, which caught him at a desk for 10 seconds during a Zoom meeting with coworkers .

While he knows how earthquakes occur, he has not observed many Earth processes that either occurred millions of years ago or occurred in areas inaccessible to humans.

Take the formation of mid-ocean ridges as an example. They occur deep underwater along distinct plate boundaries, where tectonic plates break apart, forming new ocean floors. As the plates separate, molten rocks from within the Earth rise to the ocean floor, causing volcanic eruptions and, in turn, earthquakes.

Representing an isolated plate boundary in deep water in VR is challenging, because “no one has actually seen it, so we had to imagine how they looked based on published material,” he said, adding that the team Many discussed how this phenomenon could be depicted to facilitate learning the concepts of earthquakes. Eventually, they began to mimic the experience of diving on the ocean floor.

There was also the issue of ensuring domain knowledge experts—the NUS team—and graphic designers understood each other. It required various refinements to ensure that the illustrations were accurate, yet still attractive.

Technology-Enhanced Education: The Future of Education

The project was Pro Fang’s first VR involvement, but he quickly learned the ropes. Through the LIF-T grant, he was joined by John Yap, a senior manager in the NUS IT department, who not only helped him with the technicalities of VR, but also advised him about the potential pitfalls. These included the risk of students losing concentration, feeling uncomfortable, or feeling dizzy if the program lasted more than three minutes.

He was also joined by Marcelo and Dr. Lee, professors of mechanical engineering, who assisted with systems integration, in particular the synchronization of VR, which provides perceptual feedback, and the vibration board, which provides physical feedback. Now, with these hurdles overcome and the system built, the team will soon test the system on students to evaluate the effectiveness of a VR environment for improving learning.

While there are no concrete plans to expand the project yet, the team has some preliminary ideas for creating new landscapes. These include simulating broader natural hazards such as earthquakes followed by tsunamis, or how natural hazards affect the built environment.`

While such VR environments will not completely replace slideshows, they will certainly make learning more impactful.

“Our ultimate goal is to enhance our students’ experiences in the classroom, adding a touch of realism to Earth science concepts that can sometimes be difficult to imagine, especially when they are over millions of years. We summarize it in a matter of seconds. do,” she said.

Earthquake depth affects potential tsunami hazard

Provided by National University of Singapore

Citation: Feel the shiver under your feet or watch the sea bed open: VR tech brings geography lessons to life (2022, March 1) on March 29, 2022 https://techxplore.com/news/2022-03- Retrieved from tremors-feet-. sea-bed-vr.html

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