June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Computers in Education
11.715.1 - 11.715.10
Immersive Collaborative Laboratory Simulations Using a Game Engine Abstract
This paper discusses the possibility of using a commercial game engine, such as the “Source” engine used in “Half-Life 2”, to implement an immersive and collaborative virtual laboratory environment that will enable multiple students to perform educational laboratory experiment simulations. These simulations will involve real-time student interaction through a computer network, and they will benefit the students by stimulating the different modalities of learning, i.e. visual, audio, read/write and kinesthetic.
By using an existing commercial computer game engine, the need for creating from the ground up the components that are combined into an interactive virtual world is eliminated. Instead of expanding extensive resources on developing the underlying visual, audio and logistical system infrastructure, the main attention can be focused on those features that facilitate student learning, such as high levels of interactivity, significant collaboration between the students and their feeling of immersion. It is postulated that such laboratory environments can be tailored so as to actively engage the students, foster their desire to learn more about the experiment and its underlying theories, make them feel like they are essential to carrying out the experiments as a group and to feel comfortable in such virtual environments.
This multi-disciplinary research is being carried out at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) with funding from a multi-year grant by the National Science Foundation’s Information Technology Research program1.
Key words – Laboratory education; virtual laboratory; virtual experiment; collaborative virtual environment; virtual reality; game engine; Source Engine.
In the computer gaming world, there is a constant demand for increasingly realistic gaming experiences that incorporate high fidelity graphics, real-time physics engines and innovative interactive game playing. By setting the bar so high, a very intense competition in terms of both hardware and software is fueled within the industry, which generated sales of over $7 billion in 2004.2 The current state of raw computing power, graphics hardware technology and game software complexity have evolved to the point where low-end personal computers have the potential to run and render environments that are encroaching upon the borderlines of reality. Coupled with a publicly available game Software Development Kit (SDK), what results from this development is the ability for users to create their own customized 3-D environments, then have a game engine render them in such a way that the users are enabled to realistically explore the environment via first person perspective and interact with the environment.
Alternate uses of these gaming technologies other than for pure entertainment purposes are emerging and becoming increasingly prevalent. Research is currently being conducted at SIT to incorporate such gaming technologies into educational laboratory experiments.
Chang, C., & Kodman, D., & Esche, S., & Chassapis, C. (2006, June), Immersive Collaborative Laboratory Simulations Using A Gaming Engine Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/889
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