Going beyond the VR headset

Igloo Vision has worked with over 40 universities to take all the benefits of virtual reality and put them into shared environments

Many universities have incorporated virtual, augmented, or mixed reality into their teaching and research.

These technologies have been shown to improve the retention of learning. They can give students a way to safely practise dangerous (and expensive) scenarios, without risking the disastrous consequences that would ensue in the real world. And they can transport students to locations they could only dream of otherwise.

But any user of VR will have found that VR headsets come with their own limitations. Putting students in headsets isolates them from their real-life surroundings. They’re cut-off from their peers and lecturer. And, in a post-Covid world, many are craving that human, face-to-face interaction more than ever.
So the question becomes: how to get the benefits of immersive technology without the isolation of VR headsets?

Igloo Vision, the UK-based provider of shared immersive spaces, has worked with over 40 universities around the world to solve just this riddle. Its technology has been installed in departments from chemical engineering to medical sciences to arts and humanities, and many more.

A sports science research facility

In 2014, the company worked with the University of Brighton’s Centre for Sport and Exercise, Science and Medicine (SESAME) to create a custom-built immersive curved screen, integrated into a range of tech, to research reaction times. A key concern was to not isolate participants during experiments.

As Dr Nicholas Smeeton put it: “We did think about using VR headsets, but there are too many potential issues. As a sportsperson, you need to see your own body. You also need to be able to move freely. And, often, you need to see your teammates, and arrive at a collective decision. You can’t do this properly when you are wearing a headset.”

Researching crisis responses safely

Mid Sweden University wanted to get beyond the headset. Its Risk and Crisis Research Lab studies how people assess risks and how organisations manage crises. To do this, the researchers needed a way to safely simulate crisis situations. But headsets weren’t quite right – the simulations needed to make use of props, actors and other multisensory tools. So the university called on Igloo Vision to integrate shared immersive technology into the Lab.

Jörgen Sparf, associate professor of sociology at Mid Sweden University, explained: “We seldom do things where there is only one participant in the RCR Simulation Lab, and as we’re a majority of sociologists, we’re mainly interested in seeing the human interaction, and that would be lost if we focused too much on VR headsets. There’s a risk of people acting like isolated planets, just floating around in a VR environment.”

A state-of-the-art Digital Scholarship Lab

And, across the pond, Michigan State University specified an Igloo shared immersive space as the centrepiece of its Digital Scholarship Lab. It is used across the whole curriculum: by history classes, for example, to explore architecture around the world, by interior design classes to visualise and step into designs, and by game developers to immerse classmates in VR games built in the Unity and Unreal game engines.

Justin Leggs, media specialist at the Lab, explained: “People are able to communicate together and come together whereas with VR goggles you’re cut off from the world. This is something you can share, and look together with your friends or other colleagues, and be able to understand things at the exact same time, but it’s still your own experience.”

With offices in Shropshire and London, Igloo Vision is able to offer in-person demonstrations of its immersive technology, as well as offer virtual demos online for anyone who wants to find out more about making the most of immersive tech for education.

To find out more, please email info@igloovision.com or visit: www.igloovision.com/universities

Leave a Reply

Free live webinar & QA

Blended learning – Did we forget about the students?

Free Education Webinar with Class

Wednesday, June 15, 11AM London BST

Join our expert panel as we look at what blended learning means in 2022 and how universities can meet the needs of ever more diverse student expectations.

Send an Invite...

Would you like to share this event with your friends and colleagues?