VirtualiTeach

Steve Bambury

Exploring microscopic worlds in VR

August 2, 2017

Micro Cosmic World is a new VR app from developers Codon VR. It makes clever use of virtual reality to explore and learn about the microscopic world. I really like this concept; we often think of VR as a tool for travelling to distant lands, or even back in time but being able to gain this unique perspective on the world around us is an excellent idea and one that I'm sure we have not seen the last of.

 

There are four stages to the experience that take you into smaller and smaller worlds. Starting in a virtual house you are quickly shrunk to the size of an insect to see (giant) ants up close and personal as the ticking of the clock in the room booms like thunder in the background. This then leads to an encounter with pollen at the top of a flower (and you can still see the dead ant and aforementioned clock looming in the distance!)

 Having learnt a little about the way pollen moves, the journey continues inside the plant as you come face to face with bacteria and come to understand it's abundance and importance. This section then comes to an end with an ominous encounter with e-coli! 

 

The final sequence shrinks you down to the smallest level possible - molecular. Here you learn more about atoms and molecules as well as the composition of the air whilst stood on top of a group of molecules. It's incredibky engaging and beautifully rendered.

 It's a relatively short experience but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Few schools have access to multiple VR headests right now so the shorter length means that multiple students could enjoy the experience in a fairly short space of time. Here's a proper look at the app in action:

The app offers two ways to interact with the experiences. There's  a guided tour where a robot companion takes you through each section, explaining what you are seeing through voice-over. This is the best option for those wishing to learn more detail about the microscopic worlds.

There is also a "free walk"  mode (which actually only allows teleportation to navigate right now) where you can enter any of the experiences and guide yourself. This also offers the ability to highlight objects and learn more about them through short blocks of text. 

 As a tool for studying microbiology and life sciences, it is unique and though quite short, a truly worthwhile experience. Students will develop a clear understanding of the concepts covered and not forget the experience in a hurry! 

 

I also think there is potential for it to be used as a writing stimulus. My friend Lee Parkinson produced an excellent project a couple of years back using greenscreen to "shrink" a class and inspire a creative writing project (find it here.) Micro Cosmic Worlds could be integrated into a project like this to help students experience the shrunken view of this world. Potentially some footage from the app could even be screencast and added to such a project.

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