Internet giant Google LLC and education simulation company Labster ApS today launched more than 30 virtual reality laboratories in a partnership that brings simulated science work to Google’s Daydream headset.
Many students don’t live very close to a university to do lab work in order to form the fundamentals of science degrees. As a result, they must make long commutes or wait until housing becomes available closer to their school.
With the use of VR, students in the sciences could do some of their lab work at home, thus alleviating this issue. “Through its ability to take people anywhere, virtual reality can be a powerful resource for students who otherwise would not have access to the lab time they need to complete their degrees,” Courtney Hampson, program manager for Google AR and VR.
Through this partnership with Labster, Google Daydream and Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream users can now access more than 30 virtual labs across multiple disciplines.
Earlier this month, students at Arizona State University’s online Biological Science Program gained access to VR labs for full credit. “We always talk about it in terms of the online classroom, but even some of the labs we do on campus have a limited number of seats or it only runs once a year,” said Amy Pate, manager of instructional design for the School of Life Sciences. “The virtual side of things can get more people into the lab.”
Soon, students at other universities, including University of Texas at San Antonio, McMaster University, and other institutions across North America and Europe, will gain access to these VR labs as well through this partnership.
The virtual labs include many similar tasks to what can be done in a real lab including sequencing deoxyribonucleic acids, best known as “the building blocks of life,” chemical synthesis, benchwork using a lab desk and fume hood, mechanical and electronics engineering and more.
If that wasn’t enough, students can also do something in the VR labs that cannot even be done on planet Earth: After donning a VR headset, students can visit Astakos IV, what Labster describes as a newly discovered fictional exoplanet being investigated for potential human habitation.
Labster’s simulations even include a short 20-minute course in lab safety that includes information on identifying hazards, understanding dangerous materials, learning safety equipment and procedures and emergency training. The best part, this sort of hazard training can take place in VR, where even if something does go tragically wrong, nobody gets hurt.
“Because there’s no time limit, students can review theories, concepts, and techniques as many times as they want,” said Hampson about the simulations. “In addition, students receive personalized feedback in the app to help them understand which concepts they need to review, and which techniques need more practice.”
The partnership, which was first announced at the Google I/O conference in May, has expanded greatly since then and has a roadmap to provide even more VR lab experiences for even more educational institutions.
The Labster Daydream VR app is available for any platform running Google’s Daydream platform.