There is little doubt computers and technology have come a long way, since their development. Computers were originally designed to ease the workload of businessmen, to increase efficiency in the work place. With technological advantages through the uses of Virtual Reality, educational methods are improving constantly. Training methods of pilots, soldiers, police officers, student drivers, medical personnel, architects, and teachers are demonstrating the beginning stages of the use of Virtual Reality in order to educate or train the next generations.
Educational methods have evolved over the years to incorporate newer procedures and techniques to develop student potential. Most educational methods incorporate an instructor led curriculum in order to develop student understanding of material for various subject matter. With the development of computer technology, more advanced methods are educating the next generation of students, instructors are constantly developing training sessions; in order to improve the amount of information students are readily available to process. Each instructor seeks to witness the proverbial light bulb turning on; when a student begins to understand the material they cover class. With new technologies, some instructors are delving into understanding how they can take advantage of it, in a classroom setting.
Storytelling, has been a way for service oriented professions, such as police officers, security officers, emergency medical technicians, etc., to better understand various situations trainees might find themselves in during the performance of their duties. Instructors, who have experienced these situations first hand, are able to advise students in the various means of handling these and other situations they might encounter in the field.
In many cases, instructors pose hypothetical questions to their students, in order to understand how well students understand the material. In this imaginary scenario, instructors are reviewing information they have covered and hope their students fully understand implications of actions they might take, in certain situations.
Today, new methods of skill and job training have come to the forefront of education, virtual reality. To paraphrase from an old television show, “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Virtual Zone.” (Sterling, “Twilight Zone”, 1959, imdb.com, paragraph 1)
Virtual reality is the term used when computer simulation and the active participants combine in a computer realm of existence. This illusion is created by the use of computer graphics, devises such as headsets, gloves, simulators (rooms with seats and computer screens on one to three sides), or projected images on walls. Once the participant enters this computer simulation, he or she, is engulfed into an illusionary realm of existence.
For many people, experience is a better training devise, where actual participation is required for better understanding of how to perform duties or tasks. The difficulty is placing real life scenarios with an ill equip person, can lead to death or injury in training simulations. Through virtual reality training, the risk of harm is by far, less dangerous. But for training purposes, the more realistic the scenario is, the better equipped the student becomes toward real life situations.
The computer age has seen many changes over the years and virtual reality is just one of those changes, for the better. Virtual reality computer games may be considered a child’s play, as many children play games on their home computer, but virtual reality technology has expanded into other areas of endeavor.
Using virtual reality as a training aide increases comprehension of all those who take advantage of the developing technology. Most computer training programs are relatively simple to operate. These computer programs come in a variety of jobs skills, which are custom designed for specific tasks. Once a student becomes proficient in one skill set, they can develop further skills enabling them to increase proficiency. Virtual reality computer programs can be interactive, enabling participants to comprehend and retain what they have learned in a virtual reality, to utilize in real world applications.
There are also some disadvantages with the virtual reality training. For some computer programs, the student has to be computer literate. If the student is learning without an instructor, they do not have the advantage of a trained evaluator overseeing their progress or available to answer questions. And some computer programs may be poorly designed offering a generic or boring experience, when the student fails to retain valuable information.
Flight simulators such as the Link Trainer, have enabled student pilots to learn how to fly an airplane and depend on instruments (such as horizontal stabilizer, compass, etc.), in order to fly safely. The Link Trainer is a training devise shaped in the manner of the central section of an aircraft fuselage. Through pilot controls, the Link Trainer is able to move side to side, left to right, and up or down, simulating flight. Over the years, the Link Trainer has become an icon of primitive virtual reality. Today, military or civilian airline simulators can be as large as a five ton truck. Through private pilot training methods, with the use of computer programs and flight control devises, are able to utilize training methods in a home environment, without the expense of flight instructors or lessons.
Computer programs such as Pro Flight Simulator Suite allow student pilots to virtually fly a selection of over 120 aircraft. A student may choose a modern airplane, fighter plane, or helicopter to learn to fly. While the Saitek Flight Simulator Bundle might be more advantageous with aircraft control devises such as the yoke, throttle control, and rudder pedals included in the package.
In order to receive a private pilot’s license, students will have to invest in actual flight training with a certified instructor. However, with the use of virtual reality devises used at home, the financial savings will lessen the cost to ones budget with less time spent on the flight line (airport).
The Department of Defense has been aiding in development of public and private industries for the use of virtual reality training. Members of the military have been training personnel, in combat scenarios on virtual battlefields. Military costs are less when information is transmitted over Internet connections, than physically moving people, adding travel expenses. Virtual battlefields are created by selecting veritable, such as terrain, weather, enemy capabilities, weapons, and communications. (Horman, 1995, “Virtual Reality: The Future of Law Enforcement Training”, findarticles.com, paragraph 16)
At the University of Southern California, the Institute of Creative Technologies was established in 1999, to answer a question, “What would happen if leading technologists in artificial intelligence, graphics, and immersion joined forces with the creative talents of Hollywood and the game industry?” (Anonymous, “ICT”, usc.edu, paragraph 2) In a multi-year contract with the U.S. Army, the talents of virtual reality gaming technicians are developing new programs for soldiers to test techniques on a virtual battlefield.
Police officer training also benefit from shooting scenarios by way use of virtual reality. In the past, officers were shown films or videos, in order to establish “shoot/don’t shoot” scenarios. Virtual reality systems allow officers to experience a three-dimensional environment, where they will come face to face with computer generated assailants. The aide in decision making during combat situations give our police officers more confidence should a real life situation occur.
There are also computer programs, such as the Crime Scene Virtual Tour 3.00 which provides investigators with documentation of crime scenes in order to observe and use in forensic analysis. Investigators, attorneys, judges, and juries are able to “walk through” a crime scene without disturbing evidence, used during actual crimes. Though some attorneys wonder whether these virtual tours might sway juries, should prosecutors misrepresent crimes out of sequence to actual events? Debates over the use of crime scene virtual tours may linger, but the use of them gives juries the option in understanding how crime occurs.
As children, many of us played at driving the family car. When teenagers begin their high school education; one of their first goals is to receive a driver’s license. Virtual reality simulators are able to assist in reaching that goal. Like flight simulators, a student driver is able to virtually drive a car without the risk danger or damage to vehicles, driving up insurance costs. Virtual reality training aides can be constructed with devises, such as a steering wheel and foot pedals, attached to student desk, in order to create an illusion of compatibility.
Driving instructors could use driving simulators such as the F2300 Thai Driving Simulator or the Drive Square Simulator System. The F2300 appears as a coin operated video game with steering wheel, foot pedals, gear shift, with three-screen imaging. On the other hand the Drive Square Simulator System utilizes a real vehicle without moving, as the student is equip with headgear creating the illusion of movement. Both these systems might be a bit costly, but they are effective devises for the overall experience of driving.
Corporations such as Amoco (American Oil Company) have employed driving simulators to teach commercial truck drivers to deal with road hazards and icy roads. Even emergency personnel can benefit with these virtual reality simulators to learn how to drive during high speed pursuits, traffic conditions, and higher speeds. It should be noted that these driving simulators should enhance the experience of driving, not replace actual driving. (Anonymous, “The Virtual Classroom: Virtual Reality in Training and Education”, scienceclarified.com, paragraph 8)
Along with the benefits of virtual reality, doctors are becoming involved in developing virtual reality training aides. Doctors begin learning about the human body by working with cadavers. Though cadavers are a useful training aide, surgeons learn their skills by observing senior doctor in operating room procedures. Virtual reality technology has grown to the point where doctors are creating surgical simulators as a more practical option, without having to put a patient under the scalpel. “The latest devises have touch-feedback systems that let practicing surgeons not just see and hear their virtual patients, but also feel the sensation of pressing a scalpel against muscle or drilling into a bone.” (Leggett, 2009, “Virtual Reality Could Keep You from Being a Surgical Guinea Pig”, wired.com, paragraph 6)
Medical schools are able to take advantage of virtual reality patients to enhance learning anatomy of human and animal bodies. Advantages by using virtual reality as a learning tool, is the cost effective aspirations. Surgical operations can be repeated from multiple points of view, and repeated for every student to observe at their discretion. Both student surgeons and experienced doctors will be able to learn new medical procedures and develop competency before actually preforming the techniques on their patients.
With virtual reality as a training tool for medical personnel, new technology is extremely expensive. The cost of developing software and devises to practice more advanced medical procedures, is costly. But as technology evolves and improves, costs will change as business competition will have a larger impact on the market. Thus, time will change the cost factor in educating those who wish to learn.
Architects are benefiting from the use of virtual reality in order to design new homes. Through simple drawings, an architect is able to manipulate random drawings into a blueprint. Computer software has developed aiding architects and non-professional designers to create designs of new homes. Once a home design is developed, architects are able to walk through a 3D tour of these designs with potential home owners. For the most part, drawings are the basis of any design, but when home owners wish to view new homes, they cannot envision their dream home without actually seeing the final product.
Grade school and high school teachers are also on the band wagon toward the use of virtual reality in classrooms. A teacher might be able to describe the glory of Rome, during the height of the Roman Empire. But through computer graphics, the essence of Rome comes to life. Or the struggles soldiers had to endure during the American Revolution, at Valley Forge, may impact students to the rigors of military life.
In conclusion, virtual education is becoming the educational wave of the future. Through the use of a computer, its graphics, and audio speakers, students are given a fuller learning experience, by way of a virtual reality, for real world applications.
For schools, academies, and educational facilities, there are always going to economic considerations. Instructors will have to give credit to the value of virtual reality in the classroom. To become an educated society, we have to use all the available resources we have. As technology develops, expense cost will decrease, making the use of virtual reality financially acceptable. Virtual reality has enabled the computer to continue its job, of helping business men and women to do their jobs effectively. Get ready folks, we are entering an Age of Practical Learning.
Sterling, Rod (1959) “Twilight Zone Memorable Quotes”, (Retrieved March 11, 2011)
Horman, Jeffrey S., (July 1995) “Virtual Reality: The Future of Law Enforcement Training”, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, (Retrieved March 11, 2011), http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2194/is_n7_v64/ai_17281089/?tag=content;col1
Anonymous, (Retrieved March 11, 2011) “The Virtual Classroom: Virtual Reality in Training and Education” http://www.scienceclarified.com/scitech/Virtual-Reality/The-Virtual-Classroom-Virtual-Reality-in-Training-and-Education.html#ixzz1Gyg9cGAN
Leggett, Hadley, (August 10, 2009), “Virtual Reality Could Keep You from Being a Surgical Guinea Pig” (Retrieved March 11, 2011) http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/virtualsurgery/
Link Trainer http://www.ewarbirds.org/linktrainer.html
Pro Flight Simulator Suite http://proflightsimulatorreviewed.com/
Saitek Flight Simulator Bundle http://www.mypilotstore.com/mypilotstore/sep/6189
Crime Scene Virtual Tour 3.0 http://www.crime-scene-vr.com/
F2300 Thai Driving Simulator http://thaisafedriver.com/Documents/Thai_Simulator_Brochure%20_English_version.pdf
Drive Square Simulator System http://www.drivesquare.com/home/