STEM, an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is an ideal subject matter for educational VR, as students who are passionate about VR are likely to be drawn to STEM subjects and will be eager to see how this emerging technology can help them with a fun new way to learn more about their favorite subject matter.
It is easy to imagine how STEM education in VR can enable experiences that otherwise would have been too dangerous, expensive or impractical to achieve any other way.
For example, a lot of engineering requires extremely elaborate and expensive hardware, or chemistry requiring dangerous chemicals or biology requiring biological material.
Obviously, a trip to the bottom of the ocean is not practical for the classroom, yet in VR the impossible experiences of the imagination become possible, and what was previously expensive and dangerous becomes easy to do in virtual reality. Furthermore, it is not easy to access parts of an engine, understand mathematical concepts or enter human body. Some examples of maths and engineering being brought into the VR world include Calcflow, a VR maths visualisation tool, and Fantastic Contraption, a VR based engineering style puzzle game, where the user solves physical challenges in VR.
Here we look at two different kinds of STEM VR experiences, The Body VR immerses the student in the cellular and subcellular levels of the human body, which is impossible to do any other way than VR. Hololab Champions enables the students to participate in a unique chemistry game show, and learn through practical lab work in a safe, challenging, entertaining and cost-effective way.
2. The Body VR: Journey Inside a Cell
The Body VR is an educational virtual reality experience that takes the user inside the human body. Travel through the bloodstream and discover how blood cells work to spread oxygen throughout the body then enter one of the billions of living cells inside our body. While traveling, the visitor is safely placed in a VR capsule with a pop-up screen that provides further visual explanations while the narration guides a tour of the cell structures and organelles as they appear in the surrounding environment. After surfacing out of the cell, the viewer can see how a virus attacks the cell. The journey takes 12 minutes with two earlier points that allow exit.
About the experience and its educational values:
The Body VR: Journey Inside a Cell is an incredibly interesting educational VR experience that demonstrates just how useful the VR medium can be for things other than games, such as teaching biology, all done in an immersive and exciting way without any of the boring bits.
Your role in this experience is that of an explorer, one who is miniaturized and sent inside the human body; whilst you may be inside a cell to discover the intricacies of the biology, it tends to feel like you’re floating inside a submarine exploring the inner-depths of a vast and colorful alien landscape.
You’re tasked with exploring and learning, and that’s where the fun comes in. Having intrigue and a desire to learn and explore is something that will greatly add to your enjoyment of the “game” as a whole, so do be aware of what you’re getting into when you download this one.
Delving back into the game, as the explorer in this slightly “unknown” land, it’s your job to enjoy the adventure and discover things about the human biology at a subcellular level you might not have known much about. There’s a large amount of intractable objects for you to look at in amazing 3D, all the while learning some real world useful knowledge at the same time.
Your enjoyment is going to come from learning what the game has to teach you in an environment 100 times more interesting than a classroom. The biggest gripe most people have with The Body VR is that it is a bit on the short side, and ideally would have continued on for longer with much more to learn.
In total it doesn’t take much longer than 12 minutes to play through the entire experience, but that may be explained by the fact that it is yet another completely free VR application.
With a game/app such as this one, the aesthetics could easily make or break the entire immersion that the game is attempting; yet thankfully you don’t need to worry so much in this one. There’s a lot of detail gone into every part of this game to resemble what parts of the body might look like, without going too far in the realistic direction to keep everything easy to understand and fun to view. Aesthetics are a big part of The Body VR, so it’s a good thing to see that the developers took such a likeable approach with the visuals of it all.
Overall, The Body VR: Journey Inside a Cell is a very different title that you wouldn’t normally find on the Steam Store, but despite that fact along with the loose terms of it being a “game”, the overall experience is one that you wouldn’t want to miss. Although the Body VR is so short, the game demonstrates what VR could do in the future for the education sector. Considering the wonderful aesthetics, the intriguing knowledge you’ll gain, and the fact that it’s completely free for you to download and play; it’s not difficult to recommend this for anyone interested on how it sounds so far.
Music and sound:
The audio in this experience is a perfect mix of explanatory voice over and ambient sounds effects, to guide the player on the learning experience whilst fully and believable immersed in the surrounding environment. The audio is perfectly balanced in this regard and is in fact one of the most well put together aspects of the experience as a whole.
Who it is intended for?
The content is accessible to anyone who would like to learn about the subject matter, even if they are a beginner, it is explained in a very easy to understand way. Great for students of all kinds.
What others are saying?
“With stunning graphics, an easy to listen to, softly spoken narration voice and a real sense of immersion this is one biology lesson you will be happy to stay awake in. I learnt more about my own body in ten minutes of using this app than I did in 10 years of school education! ” Virtual-reality-shop
The Body VR is one of the best examples of the educational value and potential of virtual reality, and is a great experience by both beginners and pros alike. This opens up so many possibilities of where educational VR can go in the future, with so much potential, and it is easy to recommend as it is for free.
3. HoloLab Champions – VR review
Grab your safety goggles and set out on a chemical-burning and liquid-stirring, competition in HoloLAB Champions, a virtual reality chemistry game show, that recreates educational chemistry lab experiences in a fun and engaging way. Using VR as a means of interactive education has been gaining ground in the teaching field as a way of engaging students in more traditional subjects that are seen as difficult or less appealing. So Schell Games has created HoloLAB Champions, a VR videogame aimed purely at the subject of Chemistry.
About the experience and its educational values:
For HoloLAB Champions Schell Games has taken a gameshow style theme, putting you in front of a virtual audience – made up of brains – and a host (called Earl), who makes a few jokes to lighten the mood. While the focus is on learning, putting real world facts and figures in front of you, the whole process certainly feels more towards a light-hearted classroom experience without the pressures and dangers of real chemistry experiments.
The title has two main components to it Chemi-luminescence and Identify Unknowns, both of which tackle various tasks within chemistry. As the name suggests Chemi-luminescence is about the creation of glowing chemical solutions by mixing the correct amount of liquid and solid ingredients. Identify Unknowns is about correctly identifying various substances using only a limited amount of reference information.
Each one starts off gently, acclimatizing you to the mechanics of the experience. You get to learn about the various equipment that is used, weighting solids on scales, how certain chemicals react with one another and much more. As each test is completed – there are 10 in total for each segment – the next one will added to what you’ve already learnt, building up that knowledge base for the final exam.
While the whole process is engaging from the outset, only feeding information in bite sized chunks, what’s remarkable is the finesse and accuracy of the experiments. Just like in a real lab measurements need to be spot on to the ml or gram. Everything is very detailed and accurate and even the curve of the meniscus (waterline) is visible to get an accurate measurement. Achieving this level of detail on the HTC Vive is certainly an accomplishment due to the fact that normally most VR experiences keep items at a reasonable distance for the sake of attempting to minimize the screen door effect.
It’s this sort of attention to detail that makes HoloLAB Champions a shining example of what can be achieved when mixing the worlds of VR entertainment and education together, thoroughly focusing your attention for the entire time. This is more of a teaching tool rather than a videogame product. As such it is short, with each section taking around 30 minutes – or less – each, depending on if you get stuck.
To keep things interesting HoloLAB Champions does time and score you, penalizing you for taking too long or spilling chemicals – trashing the equipment will massively reduce the final score. On the other hand, perfectly pouring ingredients out and solving the tests quickly will achieve max points.
Music and sound:
The soundscape is created from the theme of a chemistry game-show, with the host as a voice. It fits the theme of the game perfectly.
What other people are saying?
“Although built as an educational tool, HoloLAB Champions also succeeds as a completely new way to experience practical science. It engages the mind as well as dexterity courtesy of challenging measurements, mixing puzzles, and mathematical elements, which should be fun for both kids and adults.”
Who it is for?
A uniquely educational experience for anyone with a passion for Chemistry, educational games and learning in general, who wants to try something they have never seen before.
As a normal piece of VR content HoloLAB Champions is short but sweet, offering an informative introduction into the world of chemistry. This isn’t the sort of title where you can and create crazy experiments, it’s not meant to be. As a teaching tool it shows how VR has an important place within education.