Since the beginning of time, we as humans have attempted to create visual-based methods to help us remember certain information that otherwise would just float out of our heads.

This dates back to early cave drawings, and we have it now in the form of video content.

Virtual Reality is the next step in this evolution, as recent research has shown that people can recall information better through virtual reality and as such, can apply it better in the real world.

After all, experiencing is much more dramatic than just reading, as you can see the events evolve around your body in the virtual world. At the University of Maryland, researchers analyzed to find out if people learn better through immersive virtual environments when compared to more traditional methods of learning such as learning from a phone, tablet, or laptop. To successfully conduct this research, they recruited 40 volunteers who were unfamiliar with the world of virtual reality and they split these people into two groups.

The first group of people viewed information through a Virtual Reality headset first, and then on a desktop computer.
The second group viewed information through a desktop computer first, and then through a Virtual Reality headset.

The result was astonishing with an 8.8% improvement in recall accuracy for the group of people who experienced the Virtual Reality headset method first. This leads us to the conclusion that virtual reality is not only a great way to recall information more effectively, but it can even build empathy which helps people understand situations better by experiencing them virtually.

This is why it is only logical for educators and organizations to implement Virtual reality in higher education to transfer a higher level of knowledge onto their students more efficiently. On an almost daily basis, virtual reality is being adopted throughout education in different ways, and today we will be exploring what kind of impact it has on Engineering and Science students.

Exploring VR in Education for Engineering

Virtual reality education is nothing new, but going forward, many new features are unlocked which will surely put engineering students at ease and give them a leg up.

According to vrs.org.uk, virtual reality in engineering can be implemented in:
· The Design Cycle
· The Virtual Construction Cycle

By using the latest VR technologies, students can build prototypes and help them to become visualized in real space, and gain information about the parameters related directly with real-world examples. To study specific parts of a product, and get a grasp of how it all works, with deeper understanding in its operation and the little details that make it, literally, tick, students might opt-in to develop prototypes. With the real-world creation of such prototype, which earlier involved the acquisition of materials, space to build the prototypes much easier with VR technologies so multiple variations of each of these prototypes can created to get the best possible learning experience.

These students can then have ability to interact with their prototypes, and make changes to their designs from the very inside of the model, something they might have missed while drawing it up on a 2D canvas for example. Through this, they can get a deeper understanding of exactly how the thing or in this case product works and improve the design altogether, in the end becoming even better engineers and developing something truly innovative.

Another logical benefit of implementing their designs into virtual reality instead of creating them into the real world is the cost of products. Some materials that the students might need to develop their prototype in the real world might be rare, expensive, or simply unconventional to acquire. In the case of virtual reality, they can simply recreate the physics and function behind the specific item they need in 3D and place it on their prototype at basically no cost at all. Once the specific model is created in 3D, it can be analyzed and specific parts can be analyzed and rectified on time before the model is approved to be created in the real world, assuming someone invests in the idea to become a reality.

In 2013, Ford Motor Co. used its immersive vehicle laboratory to go over 135.000 details on its 193 vehicle prototypes without building a physical version of any of the vehicles within a single year.

Viatechnik has made an amazing list of virtual technologies in architecture and engineering that show how this technology has been implemented for real-world projects so far.

Virtual Reality in Higher Education — Exploring Science

Dissecting a cell in virtual reality is possible, as the scientist can dissect it layer by layer, excavating it to uncover tiny structures buried beneath its surface.

Phys.org highlights how the Cell 101 VR App can show students a virtual reality perspective of the inner workings of cells and their interactions, which in turn allows them to visualize the cell biology.

Through a virtual reality environment, a student can visualize computer tomography scans from any patient and identify possible tumors that might arise, saving them in the process. Researches have proven that a 3D virtual environment allows radiologists to better visualize and identify potential tumors than with the standard 2D imaging methods that are available. By analyzing all of the data in three dimensions, you might find things and shift your perspective to a point that you otherwise would not have just by reviewing two-dimensional slices of tissues.

If a student had a task to analyze data that was already pre-constructed by a professor or is a direct dump of data from real-world scenarios, the student can simply walk around a 3D space while wearing the headset, and by using haptic gloves or controllers he can create a road-map of sorts as to how to resolve that issue. This is what makes Virtual reality in education an excellent way for students to memorize information more effectively and in turn would allow the scientist to develop a device that could resolve the issue, and construct it as a virtual reality prototype.

Then, when you bring in programming and machine learning into the picture, otherwise known as artificial intelligence, you can simulate how a real body works, how it reacts to certain things, and the prototype can be pushed in the virtual patient to see the potential outcome and results that can be expected before implementing it into a real patient. This will not only give students a bigger and better perspective as well as an understanding of how everything works but a chance to truly bring their ideas to life and potentially save millions of lives in the process.

Virtual Reality has its place in Higher Education and can benefit both Engineers and Scientists in ways that will move humanity forward as a whole. Their unique, quirky, and at times risky ideas can be tested out in a safe environment before being brought into the real world, effectively ruling out the good ones from the bad ones. As such, they can bring to the real market devices and tools that will change the way we do things, both in terms of technological advancements, and psychological thinking.

Virtual reality will truly shape and shift the minds of young students as it will open up an entirely new world to them, unlike anything we have experienced so far, and with all of that under the palm of their hands, who knows what they might bring to the real world.

About Sara Mircevska

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