“VRChemist” Simulator Game to Aid the Understanding of Chemistry Subject

Virtual Reality, VR, Immersive Technology & Simulated Environment

“VRChemist” Simulator Game to Aid the Understanding of Chemistry Subject

Using VR in Chemistry Subject
The H2O Molecule Built Using VRChemist. (Credit to VRChemist)

Remember the time when learning some subjects in school is very boring, difficult to understand and hard to learn. Especially the science related subjects such as physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology (just to name a few).This kind of situation will be challenging for both students and teachers as well. Along the way, many learning tools and teaching aids were introduced to make the learning experience of these subjects become more fun and engaging.

Recently, a virtual reality game titled “VRChemist” from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) might be able to make learning of the chemistry subject in high schools to be more enjoyable and exciting.

One of the way to make the learning more fun is to improve the visualization of the atom and molecules in virtual reality mode. Perhaps, this approach can improve the understanding of the students at much faster rate. This technique might be a great aid to supplement the teaching method in schools.

For your info, this game (or simulator tool) is actually a master thesis by Per-Arne Waaler Stenshagen and supervised by Rune Hjelsvold and Simon McCallum. It was performed during the spring semester of 2018. The game framework is based on the “HTC Vive Tutorial for Unity” from raywenderlich.com. And it also requires SteamVR to work.

They performed the test on teachers and students from two Norwegian high schools. Around 7 teachers and 17 students participated in this test. The players will wear the HTC Vive headset to enter the virtual world. Once they were inside, they will pick up the atoms and bindings by using controllers and then attached them together to form the molecules. Atoms will look like coloured spheres while bindings will look like sticks. For this version, they only used Hydrogen, Carbon and Oxygen atoms since these three “popular guys” are already sufficient enough to create large molecules. The players tasks are to create the water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) molecules. The duration took around maximum 15 minutes per participants.

From the feedback, some of them having small difficulty initially when using the controllers because once they were inside the virtual world, they could not see their hands and what button they were pressing at that moment. But one interesting finding is that, none of them experienced dizziness and nausea during their VR experience. Furthermore, it generates high interest to the next release of VRChemist and also the other virtual reality software. Below are some of the outcome that we find very interesting from the paper…

VRChemist Experience
Students Feeling When Walking in Virtual Room. (Credit to VRChemist)
Comparing VR and Traditional Method
Students Comparing the Traditional Learning Methods with VR. (Credit to VRChemist)

That looks great!! Kudos to the Department of Computer Science of NTNU for the very positive results and outcome. You can also download the full master thesis paper from here. The paper is around 81 pages and got many useful data and might provide you some good insight if you plan to build the educational VR software for students. Now, what do you think of the effectiveness of using VR approach in the chemistry subject? For more info, you can visit:
1) “VRChemist: Virtual Reality for High School Chemistry” from NTNU Open.

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