Change Your Perspective is an activity developed by Learning Undefeated to introduce students to concept of Virtual Reality, a new technology that is changing the world. This activity is currently offered only on MdBioLab.
Virtual Reality (VR) is an interactive, computer-generated simulation of a 3D image. Using specialized equipment, VR technology creates an artificial environment that can be experienced in a realistic and physical way. By tracking movements and manipulating the body’s sensory feedback mechanisms, VR technology merges the fields of biology, electrical engineering, and computer science to fully immerse its users in a fabricated landscape and give them the ability to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
Virtual Reality is a new and exciting tool that has the potential to transform the way a number of industries operate. VR headsets provide an affordable and user-friendly solution to various challenges experienced by law-enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, retailers, manufacturers, scientists, etc.
The Change Your Perspective activity is a fantastic opportunity for students to explore VR technology and to gain a better understanding of its real-world applications. In this activity, students will use a Samsung VR headset to experience a VR landscape and then be challenged to think critically about how they can use VR technology in a professional setting.
- Introduce the concepts of sensory feedback and stereoscopic vision
- Understand what Virtual Reality is and how it works
- Think critically about the practical uses of Virtual Reality
- Plan, develop, and create an artificial VR landscape that solves a real-world problem
Understand the science behind Virtual Reality – how do we perceive our surroundings and how does VR manipulates our vision to alter our perceived surroundings.
What is reality?
Our perception of reality can be credited to our five senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. Our nervous system has a specific sensory nervous system and “sense organ,” or sensor, dedicated to each sense. The brain uses the feedback collected by these sensors to monitor, understand, and react to our environment. VR headsets manipulate the feedback collected by the brain to create a virtual landscape.
The Five Senses
Our perception of taste comes from the small bumps on the top of our tongue, known as the papillae. These papillae contain our taste buds, which, in turn, contain sensory receptors that are activated by the food we eat. Our taste buds allow us to taste four main flavors: salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.
The biggest organ of our body is the skin, which also happens to be the organ that facilitates our sense of touch. Specialized receptor cells and nerve endings embedded in the 3 layers of the skin can detect a tactile sensation (e.g. cold, hot, and pain) and relay signals regarding this sensation to the brain. The presence and location of different types of receipts make certain body parts more sensitive and help to detect contact, pressure, and vibration.
Smell is detected with specialized nerve receptor located at the top of our nasal cavity. When we sniff or inhale through our nose, the chemicals in the air bind to these receptors and triggers a signal that ultimately lead to our sense of smell. Our nose is able to identify 7 different types of scents: camphor, musk, flower, mint, ether, acrid, and putrid.
Our sense of sound comes from our ears. The ears use bones and fluid to transform sound waves into sound signals. Sound is one of the senses that is manipulated by VR technology, allowing for a completely immersive experience.
The eyes give us our perception of sight. Situated in the orbits of our skull and protected by bone and fat, the eyes translate light into image signals that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain for processing. Sight is the main sense that is manipulated by VR technology. VR headsets take advantage of how our eyes perceive its surroundings and present an altered image that is the foundation of the Virtual Reality environment.
What is stereoscopic vision?
We visually perceive our surroundings through our two eyes. With this binocular vision, the views through the two eyes are nearly identical, but different enough to give us a visual advantage when assessing our surroundings. The slight differences in these views give us the ability to perceive depth. Our perception of depth and our ability to see our 3D environment is called stereoscopic vision.
How does Virtual Reality manipulate our stereoscopic vision?
To create a fully immersive experience, VR headsets eliminate any interaction with the real world by enclosing our eyes in a stereoscopic display that projects different images to each eye. Most VR headsets use a smartphone or a computer connected via a HDMI cable that projects a 2D scene onto our eyes. Each eye receives the same scene, but the image one eye receives is projected at a slightly different angle than the image the other eye receives. By displaying a scene at slightly different angles to each eye, VR headsets are able to simulate depth. These projected images coupled with motion tracking sensors allow for the VR headset to create a 360 degree artificial environment that seems realistic.
The Evolution of Virtual Reality
Although turning 2D scenes into 3D artificial environments may seem like a new concept, the ability to create 3D images from 2D images has bee around since the 1800s. The first attempts at creating an artificial 3D image include paintings, stereoscopes, and anaglyphs. Check out the links below to learn more!
3D Paintings: https://mymodernmet.com/hyperrealism-history/
Pre-Lab Activity coming soon!
Change Your Perspective is a two-part lab activity:
In the first past of this activity, students will experience Virtual Reality first hand using Learning Undefeated’s Samsung VR headsets. Students will observe how their sense of vision, perception of sound, and overall idea of reality are altered.
In the second part, students will be provided with a prompt that gives them the opportunity to embrace their creativity and employ their critical thinking skills. Students will used a Samsung smart phone and Google Cardboard to design an artificial environment that helps solve a real-world challenge.
Virtual Reality is just one example of how powerful and influential computer science and technology can be. Explore other technologies that are shaping the world and develop your coding skills!
Post-Lab Activity coming soon!
Scratch by MIT
Scratch is a programming language and an online community where kids can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation. Check it out: https://scratch.mit.edu!
Codeacademy is where many people who are new to coding get their start learning programming online. The platform revolves around interactive learning. Check it out: https://www.codecademy.com!
Swift Playgrounds App
Swift Playgrounds is an innovative app for the iPad that makes learning code fun and easy by bringing coding to life with an interactive interface that encourages students and beginners to explore working with Swift, a programming language from Apple that is used by professional developers to create apps. Check it out: https://www.apple.com/swift/playgrounds/!
- Skill level: Beginner
- Grade level(s): Grades 7 – 12
- Focus: Computer Science, Biology, Physics
- Time: 40-55 minutes
reality, virtual reality, three-dimensional, sensory feedback, sight, sound stereoscopic vision, stereoscope, anaglyph, Fresnel lenses, refraction, software development, biology, electrical engineering
Sensation & Perception: Learn the difference between sensing and perceiving and how vision actually works
Stereoscopic Vision Explained: How stereoscopic vision works and why it is important
Virtual Reality Explained with Optical Illusions: How Virtual Reality manipulates our brain to see an artificial environment
Watch a virtual reality experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYfNzhLXYGc