While the use of virtual reality (VR) for gaming and entertainment continues to grow, the technology also shows promise for changing the landscape of industries such as medicine, education and workforce training. With this recent emphasis on the use of VR in high-impact areas, University of Maryland researchers conducted one of the first in-depth analyses on whether people learn better through virtual, immersive environments, as opposed to more traditional platforms like a two-dimensional desktop computer or hand-held tablet.
The researchers found that people remember information better if it is presented to them in a virtual environment. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Virtual Reality.
“This data is exciting in that it suggests that immersive environments could offer new pathways for improved outcomes in education and high-proficiency training,” says Amitabh Varshney, professor of computer science and dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at UMD. Varshney leads several major research efforts on the UMD campus involving virtual and augmented reality (AR), including close collaboration with health care professionals interested in developing AR-based diagnostic tools for emergency medicine and VR training for surgical residents.
In addition to Varshney, the paper’s authors include Catherine Plaisant, a senior research scientist in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and Eric Krokos, a doctoral student in computer science. For the study, the UMD team used the concept of a “memory palace,” where people recall an object or item by placing it in an imaginary physical location like a building or town.
This method — researchers refer to it as spatial mnemonic encoding — has been used since classical times, taking advantage of the human brain’s ability to spatially organize thoughts and memories. “Humans have always used visual-based methods to help them remember information, whether it’s cave drawings, clay tablets, printed text and images, or video,” says Krokos, who was lead author on the paper. Read more from sciencedaily.com…