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How to Set Up Your Virtual and Mixed Reality Lab: A Step-by-Step Guide for Academic Use

April 26, 2024
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XR/VR tips and tricks

Virtual and mixed reality (VR/XR) technology has been making waves in the education sector, and universities all over the world are utilizing this technology today to enhance learning experiences. In this blog, we delve into the essential requirements needed for adopting immersive technologies, from setting up a dedicated lab for VR&XR to best practices for its integration into academic programs.

CONTENTS:

1. Taking the First Step
2. Leveling up
3. Custom Simulations
4. Best Practices for Deeper Integration

Setting Up Your Virtual and Mixed Reality Lab

Video: Toltech

Establishing a virtual and mixed reality lab can be a tangible and exciting step towards advancing immersive learning and exploration in your organization. A well-equipped VR lab not only enhances academic programs but also prepares students for the technological demands of the future, familiarizing them with the latest innovations.

Checklist and Requirements

Could VR, AR, or XR produce real value to your existing ways of working? Are you prepared to invest in new hardware and software? Do you have a budget for implementing new technologies into your workflow? If the answer to these questions is yes, your organization can benefit from building a dedicated VR/XR lab. Below, we outline the development of an VR/XR program into three stages with varying requirements and realistic outcomes.

1. Taking the First Step Into Immersive Tech

  • Provide spaces where students can access VR/XR, such as a learning lab or library.
  • Not incorporated into a specific curriculum.
  • Mainly used for educational exploration, experimentation and entertainment

1.

What you need to succeed:

Requirements:

  • Dedicated lab manager
  • Room with enough open space to safely move around and interact in the virtual environment.
  • Acquisition and maintenance of hardware (headsets, accompanying peripherals such as PCs, controllers, tracking systems).
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  • • Invest in devices and peripherals that offer high-resolution immersive experiences that match your anticipated use cases.
    • Make sure the devices you consider meet your requirements in terms of visual quality and performance, that they support your critical software, suit single or multi-user setups and offer control schemes that fit those users’ requirements and experience level.
    • Ensure the hardware supports a wide range of applications and can be updated as technology advances.

Outcomes:

  • Students gain valuable hands-on experience with immersive technology
  • Learning and experimentation is self-guided, limiting the scale of quantifiable impact

2. Leveling up: Adding Value to Your Curriculum with VR/XR

  • Implement XR or VR education and training as part of your curriculum.
  • Use existing software and platforms that provide pre-made learning programs for students, e.g. ToLTech, Tenstar, Luxsonic.

2.

What you need to succeed:

Requirements:

  • Hardware (headsets, PCs, controllers, beacons)
  • Licenses for learning platform or software
  • Training on platform for teacher

Outcomes:

  • Students gain hands-on experience for real-world scenarios
  • Learning is quantifiable – metrics can include module completion, concept understanding and retention, rate of learning, and others

3. Custom Simulations for Research, Education and Training

  • Design a custom simulation for specific research, education and training applications
  • Great for in-depth training, research and feasibility testing, and full-scale simulations
  • Typically specifically funded projects or initiatives tied to research

3.

What you need to succeed:

Requirements:

  • Hardware (headsets, PCs, controllers, beacons)
  • Licenses for development software such as Unity and Unreal
  • Developer(s) to design/build the custom simulation
  • Program manager to ensure alignment of curriculum and training goals

Outcomes:

  • Students gain hands-on, real-world experience in a fail-safe environment
  • Learning is quantifiable; metrics are custom, based on goals of simulation
  • Program manager has full control over all aspects of simulation

Best Practices for Deeper Integration into Academic Programs

By following these best practices, you can integrate VR/XR technologies in a way that not only enriches academic programs but also positions students and faculty at the forefront of technological innovation and application.

Curricular Alignment: Integrate XR and VR education experiences directly into the curriculum to enhance learning objectives. Use these technologies to offer practical applications of theoretical concepts, making learning more engaging and effective.

Faculty Engagement: Encourage faculty to explore and experiment with immersive technologies in their teaching and research. Provide workshops and resources to facilitate their creativity and innovation.

Collaborative Projects: Foster interdisciplinary projects that leverage immersive technologies, allowing students from different departments to collaborate on complex problems and solutions.

Industry Partnerships: Establish connections with industry partners to access cutting-edge technology, internships, and real-world projects. This can enhance the lab’s offerings and provide students with valuable professional experiences.

Research Opportunities: Utilize the VR/XR lab as a research tool for exploring new teaching methodologies, technology impacts, and discipline-specific inquiries. Encourage students to undertake research projects using VR/XR technologies.

Exhibit and Share: Showcase the work and projects developed within the VR/XR lab to the broader academic community and the public. This can inspire others and demonstrate the value of immersive technologies in education and research.

Ethics and Privacy: Ensure the immersive hardware and software implemented align with your institution’s privacy policies, ethical guidelines, and security requirements.

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