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Curtin University
Transforming Learning at Curtin

Gaming technology helps bring Curtin teaching to life

12 March 2014

Sophisticated 3-D gaming technology is being used to transform Curtin University teaching by taking education beyond the confines of the university campus.

Hearts will pump, muscles will move and the anatomical exhibits that were once the province of specimen jars will now be open to virtual examination.

Students will lose nothing from the “actual experience", which is designed to provide a realistic learning environment.

Research in this area is being undertaken through the School of Design and Art and Curtin Business School – and while much of the initial work is specific to those disciplines, the research outcomes are easily adaptable to other university courses.

The immersive nature of this technology means students can be fully engaged in the environment and be empowered by the experience.

School of Information Systems Senior Lecturer Dr Torsten Reiners said his research was funded through a national grant from the Australian Government’s Office of Teaching and Learning.

“Our objective was to use authentic and immersive environments to give students an opportunity to see how the theory they learn in class is applied in industry,” Dr Reiners said.

“With this technology we can train students in the skills they need in the real-work environment to bridge the gap between knowledge and the practical skills."

He said one teaching scenario he was developing involved container terminal safety but that it could be easily adapted to a mine site or other industry environment.

“The lenses in the Oculus Rift give the impression you are actually in the room, creating a whole immersive impression of the space, which can be just a game or it can be a learning environment," Dr Reiners said.

“We are also able to bring multiple people in to the environment. Each person who wears the goggles will appear as an avatar in the virtual world. This has enormous application in distance learning.”

The holographic unit is a hybrid of old and new technologies, according to School of Design and Art Research Fellow Dr Nina Sellars.

“It takes an 18th Century optical illusion from stage and theatre and combines it with digital technologies,” Dr Sellars said.

“We’ve customised it for our University’s needs, coupling it with other digital technology and making it an interactive unit. There are also applications where you can make this a stage unit and have real people on stage or in a class environment interacting with the images.

“One of the things we plan to do is develop a 3-D virtual pots lab of anatomical specimens which can be used in place of the old-school glass pots with specimens in them, which you were never able to touch anyway.”