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Implementing Virtual Reality Laboratory Accidents Using The Half Life Game Engine, Worldup, And Java3 D

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.665.1 - 8.665.11



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Paper Authors

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John Bell

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Scott Fogler

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Session 2793

Implementing Virtual Reality Laboratory Accidents Using the Half-Life Game Engine, WorldUp, and Java3D

John T. Bell and H. Scott Fogler

University of Illinois Chicago / University of Michigan Ann Arbor

This paper describes recent developments in an ongoing project[1-3] to develop a series of virtual reality based laboratory accident simulations, designed to impress upon users the importance of following proper lab safety procedures, and the potential consequences of not doing so. The primary goal of the project is that users will remember the experience of suffering a lab accident longer and more vividly than a written set of lab safety rules, and will hopefully conduct themselves in a safer manner as a result. A secondary goal is to explore a variety of different development platforms, to determine which are most practical and effective for this type of first-person educational simulation. The following sections will describe the current status of the overall project, and describe the most recently developed modules.

Project Overview

It is well known that people remember things that they experience first-hand much longer and more vividly than things that they merely read or hear[4, 5]. Specifically in the area of laboratory safety, anyone who has ever experienced a laboratory accident will remember that experience much longer than any set of written lab safety rules. However it is obviously not practical to deliberately stage lab accidents merely to drive home the importance of following proper lab safety procedures. Virtual reality, on the other hand, offers the opportunity to create realistic first-person simulations of lab accidents that will have a much stronger impact on the user than any set of written rules ( although obviously not as strong an impact as real accidents. )

Virtual reality is an emerging computer interface technology designed to make the user believe, as much as possible, that what they are experiencing is "real". While no system currently available has attained that goal completely, there are many high-end systems that can suspend users' disbelief to remarkable extents, so that at least for a short while they are willing to forget that it is not real. Advanced systems achieve this level of realism using ultra-fast graphics supercomputers and specialized interface equipment, including stereoscopic displays, head- mounted displays, motion trackers, haptic feedback devices, advanced audio processing systems, and even olfactory "display" systems.[6-13]

Low-cost virtual reality[11, 14-16] does not achieve the same levels of realism and believability, but has the advantage of being within the grasp of a much broader audience, and with recent advances in consumer-grade computer graphics cards, the gap between high-end and low-end systems is rapidly diminishing. Virtual reality has successfully been applied as an information delivery system, in both the educational[17-28] and scientific visualization[7, 8, 29-35] arenas. This project strives to deliver simulations having as high an impact as possible while supporting computer equipment that is commonly available to students and other interested parties. Special devices such as head-mounted displays are supported ( where applicable ), but not required.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Bell, J., & Fogler, S. (2003, June), Implementing Virtual Reality Laboratory Accidents Using The Half Life Game Engine, Worldup, And Java3 D Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11905

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